February 12, 2024

Year of the 🐉

Happy Lunar New Year 🧧

It's Year of the Dragon! 
From Wikipedia, dragons are: 
intense and powerful individuals capable of great good, who make great leaders but are rather unpredictable. [They] are said to be intelligent, magnanimous, charismatic, charming, authoritative, confident, eloquent, and artistic, but can also be manipulative, jealous, selfish, aggressive, vindictive, and deceitful.

An important Dragon: Anna May Wong


I went to see a movie recently called Großstadtschmetterling (Pavement Butterfly) starring Anna May Wong. I had never seen her in a movie before, and only really ever knew of her because of the frequent mentions of her during AAPI Month (May). The screening was introduced by Yunte Huang, an author who published a biography of Anna May this year, Daughter of the Dragon. Huang called our attention to the fact that Anna May was born in the Year of the Dragon (1905).

Some scenes from Pavement Butterfly:


For me, seeing a Chinese face lovingly filmed and presented, in a story that ends up empowering a victimized, racialized other, was a revelatory experience. Especially seeing a Chinese face from such an early cinema period, when I'm used to only seeing white faces in repertory theaters.

As I ended up learning from Huang's book, Anna May Wong was an early film star who faced the intersecting marginalization of being both a woman, as well as a Chinese person. Many of the AAPI wins we've celebrated in recent years from Crazy Rich Asians to Everything Everywhere All at Once to Beef were paths previously laid by Wong in the earliest years of cinema, even if they had gone relatively untrodden in the years since Wong died in 1961.
The book ended up being a fascinating survey of Chinese-American history, in an era that I knew little about (1900-1960), specifically tracking the role of Chinese-Americans in US film history. I learned about why America's first Chinese dominated the laundry business, how executives cast Anna May Wong in the first Technicolor movie in order to test skin color differences on colorized film, that Bruce Lee was a quarter white. How mainstream adoration means little when the objects of curiosity are still heavily discriminated against (see highlighted section below), and how this painfully came up time and time again in Anna May Wong's life story.
Here's a New Yorker review of Yunte Huang's book Daughter of the Dragon if you're curious to learn more:



Another important Dragon: my grandfather 


96 this year—look how handsome and fun he is!! A kind, generous, intelligent man. A wonderful example of a Dragon 💓


Our new year food, smiles, and fortunes

台灣猪排, Taiwanese style pork chop like you'd find in an everyday Taiwanese lunch bento, from a Win Son recipe. It tasted exactly as it should: my heart, tongue, belly were filled with joy.