That time I was interviewed about Shah Rukh Khan…

Full disclaimer: This is not my area of expertise.

Which is why Ada Tseng and Brian Hu asked me to join them for the first episode of season six of their amazing Saturday School Podcast. The podcast is an exploration of Asian American pop culture, that gets into the nostalgia, the talent and the amazing people who have brought us to this powerful place, this “Crazy Rich Asians,” Mindy Kaling, Hasan Minhaj, “Fresh Off the Boat” era. This season, Ada and Brian are revisiting films from Asia that portray the US, starting with the 2003 classic “Kal Ho Naa Ho.”

I can’t remember the first time I saw a Bollywood film, but I do know that I spent a lot of time actively disliking them. It took Ada and Brian, two Taiwanese American friends, to show me the virtues of Indian blockbuster films — and more specifically, to show me the glory of Shah Rukh Khan.

(Aside: For those uninitiated in SRK, here’s a story Ada wrote for Global Nation that serves as a good primer. While this piece might send you down a rabbit hole that makes you miss your deadlines or your family obligations, it’s probably more efficient than searching the internet and scrolling through 100 Buzzfeed listicles. Unless, of course, you’re like many SRK fans and are looking for that sort of thing.)

I have a complicated relationship with Bollywood, one that is about immigration, shame, pride, joy and family all at once. Ada and Brian really got me to dig deep and tell that story. And laugh with me (at me?) along the way.

To my desi friends, my immigrant friends, to anyone who has ever felt like an oddity in the US, maybe you can relate. Is there something in your pop culture history that was really uncomfortable when you were young but became inexplicably empowering as you grew older? I’d love to hear about it.

logo for Saturday School, blue and pink text with the "oo" of "school" made with a VHS cassette.

Here’s where you can subscribe to Saturday School, which is part of the awesome Potluck Podcast Collective. It’s a wonderful, joyful journey to be part of!

Saturday School is in its sixth season — amazing! If you’re looking for a new podcast where you can show your love, check out Naomi Gingold and Jacky Ahn Yang’s startup long form narrative podcast about Asia: Not the Hello Kitty Show. (Audiophile journalist friends, they’re looking for pitches too!)

queuing for movies

They all said the Pusan International Film Festival is the premiere festival in Asia. I’m no Asia film scholar, but it certainly is a big deal here. I’ve never seen teenagers wake up so early to get movie tickets before.

On the third day of the festival, we also woke up early to get tickets to some shows we wanted to watch. My friend Brian Hu is fully accredited and can get tickets one day ahead of time. I, as an Asia Pacific Arts photographer, am not.

Last night I attempted to reserve tickets for shows today. The interesting thing about this festival is that it really is designed for Koreans here to see Korean films and international films with Korean subtitles that they would ordinarily never have access to. If you are a Korean resident you can buy tickets online, at ATM machines and in banks. It’s wonderful to see all the excitement – the festival is visible in one way or another all over the city.

sell_out_thumbail147x200.gifA foreigner, however, needs to queue up. They sell tickets in person only on the day the movie is showing, and the tickets sell out fast. I got in line just after 9 a.m. and by the time I reached the counter at 10:45, more than half the films showing today were sold out. I did manage to get a ticket to the Malaysian film Sell Out! by Yeo Joon Han, which I am really looking forward to. Considering I was tasked with teaching students in Singapore to be creative (no joke), it will be interesting to see Yeo’s lampooning of how corporate interests wreak havoc on creative industries.

I also picked up a ticket to 63 Years On, a documentary by Kim Dong-won about Korean comfort women (sex slaves in World War II) and how their lives are now. I’ve crossed paths with this topic so many times before that the film caught my eye and I thought I’d take a look.

In the coming days, I’m hoping to catch a few more documentaries, and some films from Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Tan Chee Wee, head of the Signapore Film Commission, gave brief opening statements at the beginning of an event adjacent to the festival, Asia Policy Plus, a two-day conference about film policies in the region. He speaks again tomorrow, so I’ll learn more about how films in Singapore are funded. Today, Tan talked about a bit about a funding scheme for new directors to make their first feature-length films. It seems that the Commission will take a large role in “nurturing” these films — and I hope to clarify exactly what that means. Brian is focusing on Taiwan and Hong Kong films and we’ll both be writing some short reviews for Asia Pacific Arts.

random updates: writing about Singapore, teaching in Cambodia and watching movies in Korea

I had a little bit of an epiphany about my writing life in Singapore a while ago. And I promised I would write more about the country where I live. So, a few months later, I am true to my word and am posting for Global Voices. Will work my way up to longer, reported writing.

I’m also not giving up just yet on my goal to get at least a few of my students reading more. I’m writing for them at npReads. Students, colleagues — if you’re reading this, I’d love for you to contribute and build the site after my fellowship ends.

Next next weekend, I’ll be attending a bar camp in Phnom Phen. I’d like to teach a news writing topic — perhaps about upsidedown triangles or a spiced up lead drill of some sort. Any suggestions or requests? Mostly, I am very excited to meet new people and get to know Cambodia a bit.

In the first week of October, I’ll be off to the Pusan Internation Film Festival with my friend and trusted film maniac Brian Hu. I’ll take some photos and do some writing and try to see as many beautiful people as possible. And get a taste for Korea.

Then it’s off to Los Angeles, home of tacos and burritos and In ‘n Out burgers. And my family too.