Like a Rolling Stone

Is it OK to Say 'Happy New Year'?

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Sunday, 19 December 2004

A politically correct look back...and ahead.

Looking Back; Looking Forward

Well, I hope you and yours had a merry whatever. Thats what the New York Times called the holidays in a recent headline on an article about how political correctness has pushed the very word Christmas out of the holiday season; how the tree at a lighting ceremony in Kansas was called a community tree, and not a you-know-what, and how conservatives are fighting back to, as they say, put the Christ back in Christmas.

Its a tough call, to be sure. While I understand the sensitivity of non-Christians, and the appeals of using a generic phrase, like Happy holidays, to cover Kwaanza, Hanukkah, and other observations by various people and faiths, it is silly to change the words of traditional songs to knock out Christ and God, or to forbid schoolchildren from singing them altogether.

Olivia Wu, a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, tackled the issue, saying, with candor, I miss saying Merry Christmas. An immigrant, and a non-Christian, she once railed against Christmas greetings. But, as she grew older, she writes, she grew to miss the beauty and symbolism of Christmas, which, she says shes learned, is itself a blend of cultures and traditions.

To Wu, Happy holidays is white noise that sticks in my throat and hurts my eardrums. It feels empty of heart.

And she doesnt look forward to the day when over-correctness hits Chinese New Year.

In a few weeks, she writes, some people will say Happy Chinese New...

The Facts on Larry Ching, and Some Unexpected Honors

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Tuesday, 17 June 2003

Ben Fong-Torres, our very own Renaissance man: author, broadcaster, and former senior editor and writer at Rolling Stone Magazine, added record production to his credits with 'Till the End of Time' by Larry Ching. Read all about it.

AsianConnections is proud to present the adventures of Ben Fong-Torres, our very own Renaissance man: author, broadcaster, and former senior editor and writer at Rolling Stone Magazine. This guy's our hero! Ben was a featured character in the movie "Almost Famous," the Oscar and Golden Globe-winning film by Cameron Crowe.

If all goes well, which it rarely does in the recording industry, the Larry Ching CD I produced should be available by early June.

It has been a long journey, getting Larry recorded, learning the ropes of the record biz, and getting the CD out.

As Larry and I, along with a great support crew, give birth to the recording, called Till the End of Time, I am going to let you in behind the scenes of the making of a record.

I would like to begin by giving you what I am sending to radio, TV, newspapers, magazines and Web sites. Although this is a very small project, just about everyone who has heard Larrys story wants to know more about him. So I have put together a fact sheet. With designer Kelly Low (of Treehouse Studio in San Francisco) and Web developer Jennifer Breese, I am also helping build a home page for Larry, at There, beginning in early June, you will be able to see stories about Larry and the CD,...

'Better Luck' This Weekend

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Tuesday, 17 June 2003

Ben Fong-Torres takes a look at a spunky new film, and at the equally spunky promotional campaign behind it.

To help promote Better Luck Tomorrow, Parry Shen, who plays one of the central characters, simply went to his computer and sent out scads of e-mails, telling friends and acquaintances how crucial the opening weekend would be for the film. How this Asian-American teenage-wasteland social satire did in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco would determine how its distributor, Paramount, would treat the movie in other markets. And how BLT did might well determine whether other Asian-American-focused films would get green-lighted.

Just see this film, he implored. That is your vote.

I saw it, and am happy to report that BLT deserves the grass-roots PR blitz. It also deserves the rave reviews its piled up since its showings last year at various film festivals, including Sundance. With its mid-April release, the raves have become a mini-avalanche. And I am happy to say that the theater was packed at the 5:30 p.m. showing Dianne and I attended, and that a long line awaited the next screening.

Im especially pleased for Parry, who first wrote me about three years ago, saying he was up for a role, portraying me in Almost Famous, and could he get some tips on how I spoke. We had several pleasant exchanges, and, even after he (and a couple hundred others) lost the part to Terry Chen, he kept me apprised of his career. It was mostly small parts, until Better Luck...

New Year Parade: Remembering the First Time

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Monday, 25 January 2010

New Year Parade: Remembering the First Time.

It's the Year of the Tiger "insert your own joke here" and, as I prepare to co-host the telecast of the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade on KTVU for the 14th year, I've been taking looks back to past parades, all the way back to the first one.

The memories would be pretty dim, if not for the fact that I wrote about it soon after surviving it. Having gone through two co-anchor changes (I've been with Julie Haener since 2001), and with three Emmy Awards under our belts, I find it fun to read about that first time out, in the KTVU tent on Market Street (We've since moved to Union Square).

It was February 22, 1997, the Year of the Ox. Here's how my first ride went.

The first explosions jolted Elaine Corral, the co-anchor of the nightly newscast on San Francisco's KTVU.

But it was just firecrackers. Workers on the Embarcadero end of Market Street were beginning the process of carpeting the boulevard with the red shreds of paper from burnt firecrackers. It was the first of many explosions to come.

Sitting next to Elaine, I was no less jittery. We were trying to rehearse for the station's coverage of the Chinese New Year Parade. Elaine, of course, is a pro anchor. But, for a co-host, she was being saddled with a first-timer: me.

Sure, I've done some time on the tube, but usually as a subject of interviews, and usually when the subject is the death of a rock star. But co-anchoring a two-hour live event? Reading from a...

Update - Judith has signed with Sony! A ‘Voice’ in the Shadows: Judith Hill by Ben Fong-Torres

Posted by AC Team on Wednesday, 02 October 2013

Update - Judith has signed with Sony! A ‘Voice’ in the Shadows: Judith Hill by Ben Fong-Torres

Photo: Judith Hill, Suzanne Joe Kai, Ben Fong-Torres at the 21st AAJA convention in Los Angeles                                          

Update Oct. 8, 2013  Judith's touring schedule with Josh Groban and official news of her new deal with Sony Music!


From Judith's official enewsletter and website


Judith Hill has been tapped by multi-platinum-selling singer, songwriter and actor Josh Groban as support for his fall "In The Round" tour, which kicks off tonight at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, ID. In addition to opening the show, Hill will join Groban during his set for two songs: "The Prayer" and "Remember When It Rains." Judith, who contributed backing vocals to three tracks on Groban's latest album, All That Echoes, will also be playing a series of headline dates this fall. See below for itinerary.


Praised by Rolling Stone for her "stellar powerhouse vocals," Hill has signed with Sony Music. In addition to penning and performing her own material, Judith - who wrote her first song at the age of four - has backed such artists as the late Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Elton John. Hers is one of the stories told in director Morgan Neville's acclaimed 20 Feet From Stardom, a film that shines the spotlight on...