Sunday, September 21, 2008

Queen Comedienne of ChiTown

Leah Eva has hopscotched the world from the Philippines to San Francisco and has recently settled down in Chicago where she has claimed the title of only successful Asian comic in Chi Town. I had the pleasure to interview her before her performance in the Shine For Our People event, which raised money for Typhoon Frank victims.

The stereotypical class clown in high school, Leah's family encouraged her with dance and joke requests.

My aunties and my uncles said 'go dance Leah!' and I'd start dancing and I'm like 'Ok! Ok! Here I am dancing!'. I was trying to figure out if I should try stand-up and I tried it and got up on stage and did stand-up and got hooked on it. If I don't do stand-up I get really sad. I have to get on stage. I have to get on stage.

What type of humor do you do? Regular jokes? Physical humor? One liners?

My stuff is really interesting. It's different. I do a lot of racially related, charged issues. At the same time I do a little out there, surreal; Cause one of my favorite comics, Nick Shepherd, Steven Wright, Dave Chapelle, Paul Mooney, Richard Pryor, Wendy Liebman, and all these other great comics it's just great. I just do what I think is funny and just trying to find my own voice. I do the ethnic jokes but I do everything.

Who are your biggest influences?

I can't really say one, two, three, or whoever but Richard Pryor, I love Richard Pryor. But there is so many great comediennes out there, like Robert Hawkins and my friends are all so funny!

So you did a show with Chris Rock?

I did! I did! It was awesome! I was at Stand Up NY and I thought I had dropped off. Chris Rock is working on his material. And I thought that was awesome because hey you don't get to see Chris Rock everyday. I'm like 'dude I'll stay here and hang out!' and the manager basically said, 'Ok here it is. You get to do it after Chris Rock performs. Here's the catch. You suck you'll never get to perform at this club ever again but if you do well every time you come to New York you'll always get a set.' So I was all scared! I was like 'Oh man! What am I going to do!? How do I do this!?' I work so hard doing comedy and finally the time has come to prove myself and you know being a female comic I have to work harder, try harder because they think women aren't funny. I just have to do it and I got up there and I did it! And I was like 'WOOOOO!'

Recently the most profiled woman comic has been Margaret Cho. Do you feel you're on the level with her?

Well we're completely different and I don't feel I am above anyone. The way I look at it, if you're a comic you're just as good as anyone else. You're a peer. I think she's great because other female Asian comics are out there now doing comedy that she started for us and she started out in San Francisco so it's cool.

Oddly besides Margaret Cho I've not known Asian comediennes

Well that's me! The only one in Chicago! When I was in San Francisco I just felt like I needed to go somewhere because I didn't feel I was growing enough so I moved to Chicago.

Are you finding big differences between the audience reactions between the cities?

Yes absolutely. Certain jokes you can only do in Chicago, certain jokes you can only do in San Francisco, and there's like small towns where I perform, seems like they like a lot of dirty jokes, which is good cause I like them too. New York City, a very liberal city, so it depends on where you are and you have to read your audience. And if you're not doing, you're just sucking, and eating shit on stage you go, just get off the stage and it's not you're night. It's just any other job. You have good nights and you have bad nights.

Do you find it hard to switch out jokes depending on the city you're in?

Sometimes I forget 'Oh gosh I forgot to do the joke about the XBox or oh man about the porn star, and about the condoms.' and I'm still developing and working out material.

After Chris Rock, is there any other person you'd want to work with?

I'd love to work with Dave Chapelle. Robert Hawkins, I'd like to work with him, and just do shows with friends. It would be so much funner! We started out together at an open mic, a little place and all the people that started out there are touring now and doing really good.

Do you have more plans in New York before you go back to Chicago?

I hope to do more shows and I'm just here to network with other comics, hope to get more gigs, and come back here in maybe a few months and do more sets. I'm basically enjoying myself. If there's another set I'll do it! Wherever there's a place to perform.

How has touring around the US been?

It's like me, this Italian comic, and this black comic. I opened up for them on the road. We went to this gas station and I went 'Dad! and dad! You are like so awesome! I'm so happy you adopted me!' and just stuff like that. I've been on the road with them and it's like by the time you get home there's not a lot of money in your pocket but you had such a great time going in this little town. They treat you like a celebrity, like rock stars. Like they hug you and everything and ask you for an autograph and I'm like "oh my god! this is so great! It's cool!' It's just the opportunity to travel the US. I want to go to Iraq and perform for the soldiers. Some people don't want to go to Iraq. I'm like 'take me!' and I'll perform.

How has the media been with your performances?

I did Last Comic Standing but that made me look bad. I did MTV and that was a good experience. I was a finalist at this black comedy competition in California. I'm not black but wherever there is a stage I'd like to get the opportunity to perform. But there's been times where, you can't call yourself a real comic until you get booed or eaten shit on stage. I was doing a show at U.C. Berkley and I had to follow a big rap group and I was like 'oh no' and no one was listening to me and I did it and it was painful but after the show I went to see Dave Chapelle so it was good!

(Conversation went into a whole explanation of how to get legal weed and other fun stuff in San Francisco. Plans of flying there with Leah and her cousin are in the works!)

Do you have any plans for a dvd or cd?

I actually have one out. A documentary about stand-up comediennes in San Francisco. They followed me around to open mics and different shows.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Traveling Sweatshops

I was reading our forums and the Engrish shirts kicked a thought into my head I just had to post. It’s unusual that I post something I haven’t research or written a journalistic piece for but oh well. Patterns can be broken so here is my thought.

Is it possible, with the evolution of technology and laws, we have gone from brick and mortar sweatshops to traveling ones? Is it no longer neccessary for morons to take “fresh off the boat” people and get them to work cheaply in the horrible conditions of a factory sewing clothing for P. Diddy’s clothing line?

New York City was (and still is) famous for sweatshops. There is no doubt that they exist. But, with the turn of the 21st Century and new technology, sweatshops have become roving businesses. The workers are free to move around outside the walls of those cement prisons but are still treated as they were before with possible a few cents added to the pay.

Here is two classic New York City cases:
DVD Sellers-Chinese women setup a blanket in a subway station and stand there screaming “dvd 5 dolla!”. Also various Chinese people carry giant backpacks full of bootleg dvds. They typically go to places where many people will be sitting around such as fast food places, laundrymats, and walk through the subway trains putting them into people’s faces asking “dvd?!”

Tourist store dropouts-When you visit Chinatown in NYC you automatically see every one of them with many toys and blinking things in front. Well when those aren’t selling there is an alternative way to sell them. We have Chinese people who walk through the trains with random blinking and noisy toys and packs of batteries screaming “Batteries 1 dolla!”.

It’s like a traveling sweatshop for them and they barely understand English more than money terms. No one knows or ever sees who they get the dvds, toys, and batteries from and the police generally don’t care. We have occassional police stings to get major dvd bootleggers but usually there is nothing done to the sweatshop workers as they are just walking around screaming a random phrase over and over agian and walking past people. Will this change anytime soon? Doubtful. I’ll post in the future if anyone ever decides to stop them or change how they are being treated.

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Three Women Break Stereotypes in China Dolls

M.J. Wyn, a successful sportswriter with dreams of interviewing the likes of Michael Jordan and other superstars of the sports world, finds herself in the middle of the male dominated industry and attempts to break stereotypes to obtain her goals; Alex Kwan, a very competitive lawyer, finds herself questioning her morals and limits to succeed where men are recognized as superior negotiators; Lin Cho, a wealthy stock broker and member of a highly successful investment team, has to decide on accepting the challenge of working in London or staying in New York with the possibility of true romance within view. All three woman are successful, all three are Chinese, and all three fight the same stereotypes in their respective industries but can all three still achieve their desires, their dreams, and yet keep their personal connections intact?

In China Dolls, Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan take readers through the world of Chinese stereotypes, traditions, and glimpses into the lives of Chinese families. The characters struggle to keep their family bonds while trying to handle a constant barrage of racially biased speeches and browbeating by family members and long time Chinese friends. Yu and Kan have written each character description as if they were sitting on the stools, in the cubicles, or the loge seats right next to the characters ingesting every nuance of their personalities. This gives readers a great image into the minds of each character and the ease to follow the cultural complexities explained in the story.

M.J., Alex, and Lin seem to be best friends but their personalities clash throughout the book giving an added piece of inner turmoil for each to face in their own way. This adds to the question of their friendships being maintained through all the hardships, arguments, and obstacles placed before them by being Chinese and female in a world which frowns on situations the three main characters face in China Dolls.

As someone who rarely reads books other than science fiction and fantasy I was intrigued by the blurb on the cover about M.J. being Chinese and a sports reporter so couldn’t pass up a new subway time read like China Dolls. Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan did a great job piecing together the three lives and connecting them in more facets than I imagined I would read in such a short book (278 pgs.). They also added a balance of old world and modern day Chinese culture, which allowed most of the background characters to remain influential to the lives the main characters. The story contained a good amount of humor from some of the phrases Lin’s mother Kim says to banter between colleagues and many comically embarrassing moments for M.J., Alex, and Lin.

As mentioned before there are predictions made by a psychic as to the futures of M.J., Alex, and Lin but I’ll leave that part to intrigue those of you reading this review into getting the book. I definitely recommend China Dolls but suggest taking it at a slower pace than most books. There are plenty of characters to read about from ex-boyfriends to relatives galore and one sentence read wrong can throw you completely into confusion.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I have and will look for more books in the future from Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan.

If you’d like to read a Q&A of Michelle and Blossom then head on over to their official China Dolls site:Official China Dolls Site

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F.A.M. Cosplay @ AnimeNext

In honor of cosplay favorites Lara Visconti and Jessica Dawson joining, I am proud to present Fangirling Asian Media Cosplay ‘08!

This year’s AnimeNext Convention in New Jersey gave me the opportunity to really get into cosplay photography and my first chance to enjoy it came with Lara, Jessica, and their friend Melanie! They came to the con as members of Final Fantasy with a full skit to do for the AnimeNext Masquerade. They were great and looked like they really enjoyed themselves on stage and around the convention areas. I believe they received an Honorable Mention in the Masquerade judging so congrats to them!

So, here is a small sample of pictures they were very nice to pose for before we headed into the main building. I’ve also included two of the pictures from their performance in the masquerade. Please forgive the quality. No matter what photoshopping I did I couldn’t get them to look how I wanted them to.

Once you’ve checked out the pictures, see their performance as recorded by minimoon12328 and featured on YouTube.

Hope you enjoy!

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Cosplay Month Continues!

I’ve been running a bunch of ideas for blog entries though my work-fried brain and came up with Cosplay Month! Following my first entry of the most popular characters of cosplay I’ve decided to continue with cosplay themed entries up until and including the New York Anime Festival!

Tonight’s entry highlights two really talented cosplayers I’ve found on my daily journies through the world of The pictures were either taken by themselves or by friends.

To start this list off I’ve found someone technically in the profession of cosplay. JoEllenElam aka Lillyxandra is a fashion designer, seamstress, makeup artist, and Zelda addict.

She is known for finding the most amazing locations to photograph her work from the backdrop of pink flowers and bright green lawn for the fairy picture below to the rocky outcrop of a river for a mermaid.

Possibly the greatest Kingdom Hearts cosplayer EVER, Evil-Uke-Sora utilizes costumes designed by herself with wigs and other accessories from friends and the hugely talented photographic ability of some of her fellow cosplayers to bring Sora to life everyday. In the ultimate example of a woman playing a male character to perfection, this 25 year old resident of Munich, Germany seemingly never runs out of ideas for shoots.

As you see below, life can imitate art as Evil-Uke-Sora mimics a scene from the introduction of Kingdom Hearts 2 (left) and one of Evil-Uke-Sora’s favorite cosplay partners, nanjokoji, comes into almost every shoot as Riku. Take a look at how great those Keyblades are!

During the start of a Q&A journal Evil-Uke-Sora put up, she put a link to a picture of her without the costume, wig, and other cosplay stuff. We’ll call these Just Christine:

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With Anime Festivals Come Cosplay…

As the New York Anime Festival is approaching, I feel like it’s time to dust off the old black cloaks, repaint the 6 foot tall broad swords, and once again bribe your brothers or sisters to cosplay the opposite gender so you can go as an Anime couple. With that said, what better way to kick off this blog than to dive into that fun, yet sometimes very disturbing, world of cosplay!

From my experiences at cosplay events, I’ve concluded some characters get much more acknowledgment in the eyes of fans when it comes to taking hours to create costumes, accessories, and props for these events.If anyone feels they will go to the NYAF in costume then perhaps you may try characters not on this list to get more attention or see if you can be a better version of these than other cosplayers.

So without further ado….The Top 10 Characters (not really in order) Cosplayed at Conventions/Festivals are:

Sora from Kingdom Hearts

Naruto Uzumaki from Naruto

Yugi Mutou from YuGiOh

Yuna from Final Fantasy

Ichigo from Bleach

Hideki Motosuwa from Chobits

Misa from Death Note

Rikku from Final Fantasy

InuYasha from InuYasha

Any Sailor Moon Member

Honorable Mention: Chung Li from Street Fighter

Honorable Mention: Rukia from Bleach

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Introduction Of A New Blogger

Greetings all you lovely people! It is your host, Jason Linetsky, and I am ready to blog for you! But who am I you ask? Well this is why this post has pulled you to it! It will answer that question and more! Just don’t expect to find out favorite sexual position or why I hate spinach because that’s for another blog we won’t talk about here (ssshhhh!). So, let’s get Ryan Seacrest out here to give the lowdown of this new blogger.

“Jason has come to to bring his style of photography to the public and add his brand of sardonic humor to the Ningin blogging community. Each blog will focus on one of his passions. What passions you ask? Jason looks forward to giving eyewitness accounts of various parties, premieres, conventions, and other events around New York and New Jersey. To add a little flair to the entries, he will be out there with his camera ready, to add pictures to some of your other favorite blogger’s entries as well as his own. You may even see some Asian fashion models and read interviews from some of the up and coming sports and music stars. So, if you can’t make it to an anime convention, the premiere of the next Naruto film, or a JRock concert then have no fear! Jason will bring it to you!”

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