Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wang Yani and Other Gifted Child Artists

A while ago my dad's friend gave us a book called Yani: The Brush of InnocenceIt features a collection of artwork by this little girl's named Wang Yani. She created really lively Chinese brush paintings. The one thing that makes her stand out though, is that she was really little. I mean two and a half years old, little. Yani painted monkeys, lots and lots of expressive monkeys, fish, chicken, or birds that appeared as if they are in motion. The book showcased brush paintings that she did between four years old and twelve. Her skill was so advanced that normally, people several times her age would not have those skills. Most of the kids my age cannot draw as well as she did.

Here are a few of her drawings:

I never actually read the book of how Yani started to paint until now. I used to just stare at her beautiful brush paintings. Going through the book is really interesting. This one part in the book compares Yani to a girl named Nadia Chomyn and they show a few of her pictures in the book as well. However, unlike Yani, Nadia was diagnosed as a mentally retarded child with autism and "severely delayed language development". She also suffered from "severe emotional disturbances and cognitive deficits". yet she draws with ease, "all within the span of a minute". How do we categorize a kid who is so talented artistically, yet considered to be mentally retarded.

Roosters by Nadia at age  6
 based on memory
A horse and a rider
by Nadia
at age five

I considered myself a good artist, but....I'm going to have to say that some people are just born with artistic skill. I can practice and practice, but by the time I would have been able to draw like Yani or Nadia, I would have been much older and I would definitely not be able to draw it with as much ease and as quickly as Nadia and Yani could. Yani and Nadia a true prodigies.

Now, Yani is not a kid anymore.  I think she has lived in Germany for over ten years now,  she is married and has kids. Her style has changed. She draws abstract drawings, but to me, they are definitely not as moving as those she did as a kid. Somehow, the "brush of innocence" is replaced by something else. I wonder what it says about how child prodigies develop. I wonder what happened to Nadia.

Yani's paintings now
Yani's paintings now

Video of child Yani narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Solar Eclipse and the Adventures of Tintin

Yesterday, May 20, 2012, we witnessed a solar eclipse. As seen from the Earth, a Solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks the Sun.  (Def. by Wikipedia.) Even though it is a natural phenomenon, people in olden days regard it as a bad omen.

Solar Eclipse as seen in Los Angeles outside our house

Witnessing this rare event allows us to smoothly (or maybe not so smoothly) segway into a mention of "Prisoners of the Sun" in the Adventures of Tintin, (one of our favorite comic book series). In this comic book, our hero Tintin uses his knowledge of the timing of a solar eclipse to foil some modern day Incas' plan to sacrifice him and his friends. By timing his sacrificial hour to coincide with the solar eclipse, Tintin made the Incas believe that he can command Pachacamac, their Sun God.  The Inca prince implores Tintin to make the Sun show his light again. At Tintin's command, the Sun obeys, and the fearful Incas quickly set their prisoners free.
Prisoners of the Son-Tintin in South America

The Adventures of Tintin is a comic book series by artist Remi Georges (aka Herge) that debuted almost a century ago in 1929.  The stories feature Tintin, a young newspaper reporter who travels the globe and solves nefarious plots and crimes. His adventures take him to Africa, China, Turkey, America, the moon, South America, the Himalayas, under the sea, and many other exotic locales.  The comic books were translated into dozens of different languages. There are 24 of the Tintin comic books and we've read every one of them.
A panel from The Blue Lotus: Tintin in China
Our parents are such fans of Tintin since their childhood that they took us to Belgian to visit Musee Herge when it first opened back in 2009. That museum, designed by Christian de Portzamparc has all the original Tintin artwork and an awesome gift shop well worth visiting.

Outside the Herge Museum (We were a bit small then)

Tintin comics are amazing. We highly recommend it for their thoughtful stories, fantastic art, and endearing characters. It's a comic book series for both adults and kids alike.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

Previously, we compiled a list of Asian-American films suitable for kids that we recommend. Today, we've got some new ones for you guys to check out and support if you have the chance. These movies tend to be for an older crowd, so they may not be suitable fore really young kids.

On Saturday, our parents took us to check out the Visual Communications Asian Pacific Film Festival -- something we've known about for a while but hadn't had the chance to visit until now.  After all, it's a two-week event that only happens once a year.  You guessed it, folks: the Asian Pacific Film Festival features films with Asians in the cast and crew.  Not only is it a pretty rare opportunity to catch Asian-Americans in the film industry, these movies (or the ones we've seen thus far) are good.

We first watched a screening of the new movie, Shanghai Calling, a feature film directed by Daniel Hsia and starring starring half-Korean actor Daniel Henney and Chinese actress/TV hostess Zhu Zhu. Henney plays Sam, a white-washed Chinese-American lawyer who is relocated to Shanghai for his job.  While he's reluctant to assimilate into Chinese culture at first, he warms up to the city...and to his American relocation specialist, Amanda.

I'm not going to give away any more, but it's a fun movie that really delves into the whole American-meets-Chinese culture shock, with a twist about who is American, and who is Asian.  Not sure when you'll have the chance to see it, but look for it . It's got great cross cultural appeal.

Later on Saturday, my mom and I (Eileen) went back to the film festival to watch a very different movie called Sunset Stories, directed by Ernesto Foronda and Silas Howard. It's a "dark comedy" that follows a nurse, May, as she travels to Los Angeles to retrieve bone marrow needed for a transplant back at her hospital in Boston -- with a twist, of course.  All is well until May winds up running into the last person she wants to see: her ex-boyfriend, JP whom she left many years ago.  The film documents the wacky ordeals of May and JP as they run around Los Angeles in search of a cooler containing the lost bone marrow.  Sung Kang plays JP!  (He's in Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Better Luck Tomorrow, and other Justin Lin movies). Night time Los Angeles stars itself with its diverse supporting cast of lost souls and hopeless outcasts. The movie does not have a tidy ending, leaving the audience wanting more, which is the best kind of ending, in my opinion.

Monique Curnen and Sung Kang

The tag line on the poster says the movie is about "Losing Baggage". I guess it's about losing the burden you carry with you by facing and confronting your past.  For some reason, this movie speaks to me quite a bit even though I'm only a teenager.  Ladies, if you're looking for a really squeal-worthy and heartwarming movie to watch with your friends, here it is.  It's even got a hopelessly romantic Asian-American main character. Score!

The festival goes on for a few more days with movies from all over the Pacific rim. Because of school, I don't think I get the chance to go back this week. Not all the movies at the festival are kid friendly, but all are personal stories made with a lot purpose. There is an underlying sentiment at the festival that it is difficult to get mainstream support for Asian American indie films, so kudos to all the film makers who actually got their films made.  Check out the festival and support Asian American films.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Art Imperial: Surf Music From Toronto

We know that folks in Los Angeles are enjoying the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival right now. There's been some great movies showcased at the Festival and we got to attend some of them.  (More about that later). However, looking ahead towards summer fun and summer time music, we are going to blog about music today.

Living on the West Side of Southern California means that you must have tried to surf at least once in your life. In elementary school, kids would have birthday parties where we would learn to surf on the beach. During the summer holidays, after running out of good academic enrichment experiences to send us to, my parents would sign us up for surf camp. While terrifying, after a couple of summers, I am at least able to paddle out into the ocean, climb onto the surf board, and surf a short distance back before falling off. 

Beach Boys music are a perennial favorite when you think about surfing.  But when have you heard any good new surf music . . . until now? 

Well, we've got a bit of a treat for you!  We all know how hard it is to find Asian-Americans/Canadian in the media -- be it film, music, or modeling -- so it's always very special to come across a fresh new Asian-American face (or voice). This week, we'd like to introduce Art Imperial, a "one-man band project". 

So far, it's released two albums, Surf Suburban EP (2011) and Cult of Love (2012)   Both albums feature lazy, upbeat, beachy tunes and Art's own voice and self-produced/written/performed tunes.  He wasn't kidding when he said he was a one-man band!

Art is a Filipino-Canadian inspired by the beauty of the ocean and the beach life in writing his music -- even though he's from Toronto and has "never actually surfed before".  We think it's awesome that he's been able to create beautiful music inspired by his own imagination and "fantasizing about the open seas".  Listening to his music, you can picture a lazy beach day under the sun, sipping pina coladas (no alcohol, of course).

Art Imperial released its second album, Cult of Love, here this month, which you can (and should) check out. We really like the song Good Times, but rest of the songs from the album are all great to listen to this summer while you're at the beach, or BBQing in the back yard.

A video featuring Hong Kong movie stars Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung dancing was dubbed with Art Imperial's single "Cult of Love" It is really cool.

   Make sure you check out Art Imperial. You can thank us later (; 

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Legend of Korra and Comic Books by Gene Yang

Everyone must have heard of, or watched Avatar: The Last Airbender that aired on Nickelodeon from  2005 to 2008 right? It was an anime inspired cartoon series set in an Asian martial arts influenced mystical world somewhere in the far east. The main characters can manipulate earth, air, water and fire and are known as "benders". There was an epic struggle where good triumphed over evil. It was a really good show and we watched it every week on TV. When it was canceled in 2008, kids like us were sad.  Many people wrote to Nick to complain . . . and apparently, the complaints worked! We almost wrote to Nick ourselves.(Personally I hate all these new stupid teenage live action shows. The best are cartoons.....ESPECIALLY STUFF LIKE THIS. I liked how the creators of Avatar totally mixed up the story completely. BUT IT'S SO AWESOME.) I would be so happy if I lived in a world like this.

Now Nick brought the Avatar back in a new series called Avatar: The Legend of Korra. The series just came out on April 14, 2012, and is set seventy years later. The story is about the new Avatar, Korra, a strong, funny, powerful, and amazing girl, (a little defiant too.. :D) who is still learning to use her bending powers.  She meets her friends, Mako (handsome, and more serious firebender) and his brother Bolin, (funny and cute earthbender).  Together, they face an anti-bender revolution by a group known as the Equalists led by the evil Amon who has the power to take bender's powers away.

The show is on Nick TV every Saturday at 11:00. Each episode is 30 minutes. But each episode really packs a punch. Sadly, this series is going to be much shorter than the last one... that's why there has been SO much drama in only the first 5 episodes. It's amazing. IT. IS. AMAZING. WATCH IT!!!! REALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mr. Gene Yang
To top it off, one of my favorite comic book artists, Gene Luen Yang, (who drew the funniest version of the Monkey King story called "American Born Chinese"), is given the awesome task of writing Avatar: The Promise, a comic book series that bridge the 70 years gap between the original Avatar and the new Legend of Korra.

Eisner Award winner American Born Chinese
 Gene's writing and drawings are great, so you are really in for a treat if you pick up a copy of either Avatar: The Promise, or "American Born Chinese" or both. My copy, (along with copies of Lucky Luke and Asterix comic books) just arrived in the mail through Amazon today.  I will spend my weekend reading it, and watching Legend of Korra. CAN'T WAIT