The Plight of the Asian Male Actor.

Upon having a recent discussion with my brother-in-law, an aspiring actor in Calgary as one of his many hobbies, I have found he presents an interesting point when discussing the limited roles available for oriental males: they are typecast into roles of either the nerdy math geek or the chop-sockey hero or the evil Fu Man Chu villain; all of which never did get the girl in the end.  Sure, they get to kick some ass and save the world but none have yet to be cast as a lead making off into the sunset with Angelina Jolie.  In fact, there are few scenes in movies where Asian males are having an on-screen romance with someone of their own ethnic group! 

Arguments are that Hollywood typecasts Asian males in roles people are used to seeing Asian men in such as a waiter in a restaurant or a martial artist or a nerdy office clerk.  In real life though, is it irony that upon walking into any hospital in North America, most of the doctors and surgeons are comprised of Asian males; but, in Hollywood, Grey' Anatomy and ER, the top two most well-known hospital-themed television shows, there are no male Asian  doctors to be seen.  In the movie 21, based on the non-fiction novel Bringing Down the House, the main characters in the book, based upon the real-life MIT Blackjack Team were mostly Asian;  where in the film, only two were Asian in minor roles.  When is the last time anyone has saw a love scene involving Jackie Chan or John Cho or Chow Yun Fat or Masi Oka?  Its difficult enough to picture any of these guys in a role that doesn't involve beating people up or doing someone's taxes.

Granted, Hollywood has a problem with under-representing all minorities considering this day and age when minorities comprise of up to a third of the population in North America.  But, even Black actors have lead roles as doctors in Grey's Anatomy; and, there is much more variety in roles for African Americans than than the hip-hop pimp drug dealer; leadership from the likes of Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington.  Even Asian women have better representation in Lucy Liu and Sandra Oh.  The Asian males that do succeed in the film industry are not even full Asian.  Case in point, Keanu Reeves, who looks racially ambiguous and easily passes off as whatever other race he is.

So what is it about the Asian male actor then?  Is the American market not ready for the Asian male lead? Is it Hollywood's fault?  Does Hollywood think western society is not ready for the Asian lead male?  Or is Hollywood waiting for the right guy to show up?

Jeff Adachi's documentary,  The Slanted Screen: Asian American Men in Film and Television, states a long history of Hollywood catering to America's xenophobia of Asian males as "Chinese men were villain-ized" and "racist images were often used to justify oppressive laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and incarceration of Japanese Americans in WWII."  Asian women has faired better due to the stereotypical image of the 'geisha' or submissive asian girl fantasy for dominant white males.  It is very hard for any of us to see Asian males playing the cowboy or the romantics they are still "outsiders" in Hollywood.  They have a long way to go in changing the image Hollywood has etched in western society's minds.  

My brother-in-law states it may have to do with our generation of Asian-born in North America have been so integrated and accepted into modern white society, we rarely see ourselves as not being part of the larger group much less seeing ourselves as Asian.  It's rare do we nod at other Asians we do not know walking by on the street or "support our boy" by going to every movie an Asian stars in, no matter how badly rated,  like our African-American/ Canadian counterparts often do.  Our generation doesn't feel a common purpose, a sense of solidarity due to past oppression because Asians have amalgamated so well into the system, into the professions, into business.  

I do agree with him, but, there's more to it than that or the Hollywood conspiracy of keeping Asian males off the radar because its just good business. 

I have found that Asians complain about the lack of representation in media but they rarely step forward and put up the resources, the time, or the money the film industry needs to change the image of the Asian male actor.  Asians don't invest in film-making or art schools; they invest in computers companies or oil businesses; Asians go to school to be doctors or lawyers or accountants, not actors or artists or film-makers.  They opt with the less risky career choices; the choice that makes lots of money: a practicality taught to us since we were little by our Chinese immigrated parents.  Only the select few rebellious types going against the wishes of our traditional parents do actually take the risk and venture out and become the actor or artist or the guy behind the camera.  

As a former artist who chose the easier road of job stability and a weekly pay cheque,  I should know. 


'tis the season for Apple Rumors...

Christmas is a wonderful time of year.  It gives us a chance to break away from the doom and gloom media coverage of the current global economic crisis and shut out the ongoing lies our Prime Minister has force-fed us with in the last month scrambling to save his ass from the inevitable no-confidence vote in the House of Commons.

It is also a time to get excited for what the new year will bring: especially what Apple has in store for its final appearance at Macworld.  It is no revelation that everyone loves Apple rumors; why should a simple recession hamper in our annual Christmas rituals?  In fact there are probably more blogs and websites dedicated to Apple rumors than there are rumors.  So far on the net this year,  some old reoccurring themes and some new ones...

Snow Leopard. A new OS X version Phil Sshiller is expected to showcase this year for his keynote speech.  It's supposed to included Grand Central and OpenCL.  This will increase graphics performance especially in new Macs with Nvidia chipsets; there is rumor that Apple will introduce a new 3D OS X user interface in Snow Leopard giving way to more real estate on screen that ever before.

New iMacs and Mac Mini's are expected to be unveiled with new Nvidia video chipsets.  Apple has already recently switched over to those video chipsets in their Macbook, Macbook Pro, and Macbook Air models.

A new Apple Netbook was rumored to be released but is highly doubtful.  This old ongoing rumor is supposedly be something along the lines between a iPhone and a Macbook Air, with touchscreen and 3G network capabilities. Netbooks' increasing popularity is something that Apple surely cannot ignore as desktops sales for all computer manufacturers have begun to take a sharp downturn.  A new Apple Netbook still won't be cheap, but, it is something people will buy regardless of the current economic crisis; and, Apple has opportunity to redefine the Netbook as it did the 'smartphone'. 

The iPhone and iPod Touch will get a boost in memory: 32GB iPhones and 64GB iPod Touches. A iPhone launch in China is also expected for 2009.

A iPhone Nano is rumored but also doubtful.  But, by targeting the cheaper pay-as-you-go market, a smaller and cheaper iPhone having the 'candy-bar' shape and engineered like that of the iPod Shuffle, may not be that far-fetched.  There would be more likely chance of a 4Gb iPhone will be released for its Wal-Mart customers for $99 and a smaller contract.

Rumor has it that Apple may be working on a new search engine.  Seems very unlikely with the market totally dominated by heavyweights Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft, but consider what the competition it faced in the cellular phone market two years prior when iPhone rumors were floating about the internet.  Now would be a great time to cut a deal with Yahoo! as it finds ways to gain back its market share from Google; also, Apple may not be pleased with Google as of late for releasing more iPhone competition in Android.

Blu-Ray burners may be an option in the new 2009 iMacs and Macbook lines. Perhaps an external Blu-Ray drive by a third-party developer is more likely.  New Apple products will probably go the way of non- moving parts, introducing flash drives and media to its line-up instead. 

A EVDO iPhone for Verizon may be coming in 2009.  Adobe releasing flash software for iPhones is more likely to happen.

An Apple branded HDTV set with built in AppleTV.  Considering AppleTV's lack of success..it's worth a try.  At least they should bundle the AppleTV units with HDTVs made by other manufacturers.

DRM-free music on iTunes entire library.  Removing copy protection from its iTunes library would keep Apple ahead of its competitors who have already begun selling DRM-free downloads for quite awhile.

An Apple home video gaming console. Perhaps to revive the flailing AppleTV or take advantage of Apple's App Store capabilities and the iPod Touch and iPhone's success as gaming machines. But, remember the "Pippin"?  Does Apple really want to go there again?

And, lastly, yeah, this one again.. The Beatles' entire catalog on iTunes.  Along with it a special edition Beatles iPod launch.  And, an iTunes subscription service.



2009 Lookahead: Not a lot of Promise...

 Again is our precious oil industry is being hit by falling oil prices, soaring costs, and uncertainty in world markets.  Big Oil is putting on the brakes to strengthen their balance sheets and hang onto any cash to weather the economic crisis smothering the rest of the world presently.   

In Alberta, oil is king:  Its overall economic health is dependent on oil.  All Albertans' livelihoods, like it or not, whether you are in retail sales, accounting, home-building, or business, is inherently tied to the oil economy in some way.  And, with a barrel of oil below $34 US, the future doesn't look all that rosy lately. 

By observing what is happening on the jobs front in Oilsands projects construction for the next year or two, most people who live and work in Alberta can pretty much predict how their own year is going to be like financially.

Here are some of the major work being deferred or cancelled for Alberta Oilsands already announced as of Dec.18/ 2008:

Total Canada has just recently withdrew its application for its Northern Lights Project.

Petro-Canada cut its spending budget by a third even after deferring its $25 billion Fort Hills 
Downstream Upgrader Project indefinitely last month; its upstream Mine is under complete review and decision deferred for the latter haf of 2009.

Encana Corp. is cutting its 2009 spending by a quarter.

Suncor Energy is delaying its $20 billion Voyageur expansion.

Nexen/ Opti Canada has deferred its plans to twin its Long Lake Project.

BA Energy has cancelled its Heartland Upgrader Project.
North West Upgrader's plans for its Redwater Plant is on hold.

StatoilHydro's $12.6 billion Upgrader is cancelled.

CNRL has slashed its budget for 2009 in half for its phase 2 expansion of its Horizon Project.

Royal Dutch Shell has delayed its expansion plans for its Athabasca Oil Sands Project.

Husky Energy has cut its budget for 2009 by 28%.

On the brighter side, what will keep us employed in Alberta until we can ride this nasty crisis out:

Imperial Oil's Kearl Lake Mine on track for construction start in 2010.

Shell Scotford's Upgrader 2 Phase 1 expansion is underway and intending to ramp up for 2009.

Epcor/ TransAlta Keephills 3 power project construction is already underway; completion expected by Q1 2011.

Maintenance and Turnarounds for 2009 and 2010 are predicted to be big shutdown years as new projects recently commissioned are coming online.