Guerrilla film project changes boundaries of movie-going

A Drive-By Cinema screening (courtesy of the Pacific Arts Movement)
A Drive-By Cinema screening (courtesy of the Pacific Arts Movement)

The cargo in Pacific Arts Movement’s overhauled moving truck is a motley assortment: In front, a Wi-Fi hotspot, charger, chemical compounds and grease remover, a pack of cigarettes and DVDs. In the back there are three white lab coats, a coffee table and two rugs, a small white parasol, orange safety cones, and a generator (plus a custom-made padded box to muffle the sound of the generator).

Bryce Griffin, who holds the title “Electronics Wizard,” drinks a can of Monster before taking the wheel.

“It’s actually really physical and kind of mentally draining. I’m climbing up on the truck and jumping around and it’s crunch time to get everything set up before the time we’re supposed to start,” he said. “And the stress doesn’t really go away once we actually start because at any second everything can turn off I have to get it running again.”

Griffin is part of a small team called Drive-By Cinema. It’s a new initiative of the Pacific Arts Movement, a 12-year-old nonprofit arts organization best known for producing the San Diego Asian Film Festival. The truck is a hollowed out, painted-over U-Haul, tricked out to create cinematic experiences in unlikely places. Screens can go on any side of the truck—including on top where a modified scrap piece of sail becomes a two-sided projection screen so people can see films from either side of the street where the truck is parked.

Read on at Public Radio International.

 

Fred Korematsu Day, Two Ways

Yesterday was Fred Korematsu Day in California.

Korematsu, a Japanese-American who resisted placement in a World War II-era internment camp, and later fought in courts to have a Supreme Court conviction of “defiance” overturned, was remembered on January 30 in the state of California. In September, California declared this day, Korematsu’s birthday, to be the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

I wrote about the day and what it means for Asian American civil rights advocates for Mother Jones online and about bloggers’ initial reactions for GlobalVoices.

Not a reader? Here’s the trailer for 2007 documentary Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story.

Of Civil Wrongs and Rights – trailer from Asian Law Caucus on Vimeo.

Things that aren’t about Pastor Jones

It’s 9/11 in America. I feel like every year for the past nine years, we’ve been questioning our identity, our values in this country. I wanted to remind myself that this is not a country of people like Terry Jones. Rather, this is a country where people like Terry Jones might end up all over the news, but also where Lee Ielpi, Henry Rollins, Amman Ali and Bassam Tariq can carve out their say. So here are a collection of things I saw and heard that gave me a broader view.

Where will you be on June 7?

Southern California friends, I’d love to see you at this event. If the chance to hear from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ian Johnson doesn’t convince you, maybe this cool poster from Maritess Santiago at the UCI Humanities Collective will:

Prize-Winning Reporter Ian Johnson in Conversation with Ian Johnson
(poster by Maritess Santiago)

If you have any questions for Mr. Johnson, please leave them in comments.

Upcoming Events

While I am working on, well, all the different things I am working on, I am excited to be a part of two upcoming events in Southern California. One is a UCLA Extension writing seminar, “Writing in the Digital Age” on May 8. On June 7, I’ll be in conversation with Ian Johnson at UC Irvine, an event hosted by The China Beat, about his new book on the Muslim Brotherhood and his work in China.

Here’s the published blurbs about these events, but let me know if you want more information or if you have thoughts about what we should cover:

emerging in California

flight to Los Angeles

After just over a week in semi-hiding, I am proud to say that I’m back in California. It’s been one year and one week of traveling and teaching and writing (and eating) in Asia and it feels good to back where the avocados are cheap and the toilet paper is two-ply, even in public restrooms.

And lucky for me, there are no Korea-withdrawals. Diamond Bar, California (where I went to high school) has two great, very large Korean markets. And just down the road I had a fruity drink and som tum and soft rock with a friend to fulfill my southeast Asia craving.

My semi-hiding week was for family and writing. I’ve found a surprisingly good work space in my sister/grandmother’s room and I’m starting to get back into the routine of writing everyday. A group of reviews from the week I spent in Busan just ran in Asia Pacific Arts, including one of the Malaysian drama/comedy/musical Sell Out! That shout out was just for you, Joon Han.

Smoking

I’m just catching up with the news about the wildfires in Southern California. A friend told me that the Los Angeles Times is really covering the story well — and it’s true. I really like the “Voices from the Field” stories — I was happy to see the coverage not focused on the Malibu elite, including a nice feature about a firefighter’s wife. The Governator is getting some good press out of this whole thing, as well.

It’s funny, the synergies you get between places really far away. On Monday, I was in the library working as close to the newspaper stands as I could get while still allowed to drink coffee. (Lucky for me, there’s a cafe near the newspaper and magazine racks.) That morning I chose the Financial Times.

Page 3 of the Asia edition:

071022financialtimes.jpg

The caption begins: “Arnold Schwarzeneggar relaxes with a cigar…” and the article, by Matthew Garrahan, begins:

Politicians used to meet in smoke-filled back rooms. Arnold Schwarzenegger, action movie star turned governor of California, prefers open-air tents.

As a cigar connoisseur, he had to come up with a novel way around California’s ban on smoking in public places when he was first elected four years ago. He had a tent built outside the capitol building in Sacramento where he can ponder policy while smoking his cherished Macanudo cigars or offer advice to fellow conservatives eager to win elections.

But look closely at the image. The cigar has a black strip across it.

I know Singaporeans are tough on smoking. There are very few public places that you can actually smoke here. (Careful with the links if you’re squeamish.) On my first trip to 7-Eleven, I learned that vendors are required to place some pretty brutal images of potential health risks on cigarette cartons, a practice that several other countries have also adopted. In March, the government launched a shocking “Quit Smoking” campaign which drew some angst. American anti-smoking campaigns seem pretty tame in comparison.

So I wondered, is this why the pink paper has censored the Getty image it was running? Is there some rule about publishing images of smoking here? There’s not a lot of documentation on the Internet about newspapers blacking out images of cigars or cigarettes. I found one blogger’s account of the act of smoking being black-dotted on television. But I could not find a statue or law or even mild suggestion that newspapers should not show images cigars or cigarettes.

What I did find — and what a colleague told me was probably FT’s motivation — is a very strict advertising statute. There are serious penalties for newspapers that have endorsements or even remotely appear to be endorsing smoking. While Arnold subverted California’s strict smoking laws, the Financial Times, it appears, could not get around Singapore’s.

If anyone has seen this blackout in other editions of the Financial Times, I’d love to hear about it.