A personal documentary by Debbie Lum / USA / 82 minutes / in English & Mandarin with English subtitles
Synoposis: seeking asian female is an eccentric modern love story about Steven and Sandy—an aging white man with “yellow fever” who is obsessed with marrying any Asian woman, and the young Chinese bride he finds online. Debbie, a Chinese American filmmaker, documents and narrates with skepticism and humor, from the early stages of Steven’s search, through the moment Sandy steps foot in America for the first time, to a year into their precarious union. Global migration, Sino-American relations and the perennial battle of the sexes, weigh in on the fate of their marriage in this intensely captivating personal documentary.
Watch the documentary at Independent Lens on PBS. (through June 2)
Bánh mì Hoàng is a family owned and operated restaurant in Houston. They make fresh authentic Vietnamese comfort food, sandwiches and more!
Thao Nguyen, of the folk-rock group Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, has been on a musical journey since she started performing in her teens in Northern Virginia. Delicate yet fierce in her vocal delivery, she writes often about her social concerns — and it was a trip to a California women’s prison that inspired much of her latest album, We the Common.
LOI, Vietnam — They had no plan to break barriers or cause trouble. But 30 years ago in this bucolic village in northern Vietnam, the fierce determination of one group of women to become mothers upended centuries-old gender rules and may have helped open the door for a nation to redefine parenthood.
One recent morning in Loi, as farmers in conical straw hats waded quietly through rice paddies, a small group of women played with their grandchildren near a stream. Their husbands were nowhere to be found, not because they perished in the war, but because the women decided to have children without husbands.
Many Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and other Asian immigrant families are preparing to celebrate the Lunar New Year by filling small envelopes with money.
Exchanging cash gifts with relatives and friends is an annual holiday tradition that can test one’s cultural knowledge and, sometimes, bank account.
Allen Kwai, 36, and Debbie Dai, 31, first met a decade ago during church choir practice in New York City’s Chinatown. They finally tied the knot last October.
In traditional Chinese culture, that means they’re now adults, and with adulthood comes certain financial responsibilities, including giving out money for Lunar New Year.
By Seth Kugel
Hawking her ya-ka-mein soup at a recent New Orleans concert, Linda Green went through her basic sales pitch: it’s beef and noodles. It’s a local secret, she told me. It’s an African-American tradition. But then came an odd clincher.
“It’s a little like pho,” she said. “But better.”
It took a second to process. Pho? As in, the Vietnamese beef and noodle soup? Why would she assume a random customer would know pho?
Because we were in New Orleans, that’s why. Just as New Yorkers nosh knishes and Miamians munch medianoches, New Orleanians know pho – and Vietnamese culture in general. It’s just one more classically American example of outsiders turned insiders. In the 1970s, attracted by both a climate and a local industry – shrimping – that they knew well, Vietnamese refugees settled by the tens of thousands in Louisiana. And New Orleans culture met them halfway, absorbing and adapting what they had to offer.
Though I had come to New Orleans for more mainstream purposes, I carved out some time to tour Vietnamese New Orleans. Though I did need a car – the Vietnamese communities are concentrated across the Mississippi River on the Westbank (outside New Orleans proper) and down Chef Menteur Highway along Lake Pontchartrain – there were few other major expenses. Vietnamese New Orleans, it turned out, is even more budget-friendly than the rest of the city.
Quirky but cutting, playful but forceful, controlled but ragged, Thao Nguyen is one of the most commanding and distinctive young singers around. She infuses everything around her with electricity and mischievous boldness, from her live-wire concerts to the way her songs gallop and clamor, picking up intensity as they go along. With her band The Get Down Stay Down, Nguyen is about to release her third album — We the Common, out Feb. 5 — and it’s full of tense, clattering folk-rock. Read more.
What happens when the naiveté of a political rookie clashes with the realities of racial and partisan politics of the South?
Mr. Cao Goes to Washington is a fascinating character study of Congressman Joseph Cao, a Vietnamese American Republican elected by surprise in an African American Democratic district in New Orleans. Will Cao make it through his term with his idealism intact?
Hate to be the one to break it to you, but as amateur golfers, we shouldn’t try to emulate everything we see the pros do on the PGA Tour and LPGA. They’re paid the big bucks for a reason, and don’t forget, it’s their job, not just a hobby.
Let’s be real. Chances are, we’re never going to be as good as they are – even if we dress like them (a-hem, all the middle-aged Rickie Fowler wannabes). The average golfer doesn’t have the time (and more important, patience and discipline) to practice and get in the reps required to reach that next level.
Of course, there are habits we can pick up from watching PGA Tour and LPGA players to improve our games. Here’s a guide to the DOs and DON’Ts.
Take enough club (or even an extra club). The most common mistake Tour players see their pro-am partners make is overestimating how far they can hit the ball. Amateurs tend to take less than they need.
“If you can’t drive the ball 250 yards, it is very likely your 3-wood won’t fly the 270 yards necessary to carry the water hazard, the greenside bunker or your friends’ heads,” says Christina Kim, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour.
In other words, check your ego in the parking lot. Your buddies will be much more impressed if you clear the hazard and find dry land or hit the green in regulation.
Know how far you hit your clubs. This goes along with taking enough club, but if you watch the pros, they have excellent distance control and are honest with how far they can hit each club. Amateurs just need to have an (accurate) idea of their range within 5-10 yards.
Develop a pre-shot routine. Every pro goes through the same motions and mannerisms before every shot or putt he or she hits — it’s kind of like a script. The pre-shot routine is integral to a golfer’s performance and increases the chances for success. It can help with everything from basics, such as alignment, to fostering comfort and confidence, especially in pressure-packed situations. It can be how you walk into your setup to the ball, what you’re going to think about and a swing feel in the takeaway or visualizing an image of the target.
Focus on your swing tempo. Watch the ladies on the LPGA, who have swings that look effortless and don’t have the grip it and rip it mentality, advises LPGA pro Paige Mackenzie. Amateurs tend to think they have to swing hard to hit it far. Wrong. Even the PGA Tour players rarely put it way up in their stance and tee it high and try to kill the ball.
“Most Tour pros are only doing that if we’re about to blow the cut and we’re trying to hit it an extra 20 yards,” says Robert Garrigus, who won the 2010 Children’s Miracle Network Classic. “If they (amateurs) put it a little farther back in their stance and swing inside their shoulders, they have a better chance of hitting it straight instead of their tendency to move across the ball and over the top – which causes a big slice.”
Tee it forward. There’s no need to play from the tips unless you can actually handle it. It’s more fun and you’ll score better. There’s already a slow play epidemic and it’s partly caused by players who take a gazillion shots when they don’t play from the proper tees.
Play overly aggressive and be afraid to lay up. Amateurs often waste shots due to our lack of recognition of our abilities and the tendency to attempt shots beyond our talents. You don’t have to go for a par 5 in two just because you have a chance and you think it’s what the pros would do.
“Amateurs put themselves in situations where they can only pull off the shot one out of 10 times based on their ability, rather than playing more conservative where they’re likely to do it successfully nine out of 10 times,” says PGA Tour veteran Greg Chalmers.”
Adds two-time PGA Tour winner Scott Stallings: “The value of par for amateurs is pretty substantial and I don’t think they realize that. We always tell our guys in pro-ams that if we could caddie for them and they did everything we told them, we’d give them the opportunity to take ten shots off a round without changing a single golf swing.”
Leave the driver in the bag and hit a 3-wood, hybrid or even a long-iron on shorter holes to leave you with a yardage you’re comfortable with hitting for your approach.
“I think amateurs should pay attention to why we’re taking 3-wood off the tee instead of drivers on some holes,” says PGA Tour pro Kevin Na. “I see a lot of amateurs taking driver on a 320-yard par 4, when they usually don’t need to.”
On a similar note, lay up to a number you like. If you’re in the heavy rough on a difficult par 4, watch the pros, who often chip out to leave a yardage where they have the best chance to get up-and-down.
“Being comfortable hitting a yardage is much more important than hitting it up somewhere near the green in the rough, where you might have a bad lie,” says Kim. “If you’re comfortable with your yardage, you will give yourself a better chance to get up and down, or at worst, make a bogey. There is no need to go bigger than you’re capable of doing.”
Try to hit flop shots. Or if you do, don’t open up the blade entirely or as much as you think you should. We can’t pull off crazy flops like the one Tiger Woods chipped in on the 16th hole at Muirfield Village when he won the Memorial Tournament in May.
Read putts from every angle. The pros are playing for millions, so they’ll often take time to make sure they get the read right and they’re confident with it. Then again, there are players who don’t overdo it. Remember Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional? He looked at the putt, walked into his setup with confidence and pulled the trigger. Odds are studying the read from five different places isn’t going to significantly improve an amateur’s chances of making the putt. Besides, speed is more important than the line, so that should be the primary focus.
Plumb-bob. Pros don’t even know what they’re doing half the time when they use this technique, so save yourself the effort and time.
Practice with a purpose. Go out there with a mindset of what you’re going to accomplish and knowing what it is you’re going to work on. If you watch the pros on the range, they take their time in between each shot and always hit toward a target, whether it’s a flag, tree or pole. (On that note, try using alignment sticks like the pros do – you can find them at your local Home Depot.) The pros also go through their pre-shot routine or a shortened version of it.
Get lessons. Most tour players have swing coaches. You don’t need to spend thousands on a clinic with David Leadbetter or another big “name.” Just taking lessons from your local pro will suffice.
“If amateurs are getting a lesson, they have some direction of what they should be working on,” says Charles Howell III, a two-time PGA Tour winner. “If you’re just beating balls, you might as well go and exercise or do something else better with your time.”
Only work on the long game and neglect chipping and putting. Amateurs probably spend 90% of their practice time hitting balls on the range and only 10% on their short game. If anything, it should be the other way around, but try to even out the ratio. More than half your shots are going to involve the short game.
“If you want to lower your score, you have to chip and putt,” says 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson. “You gotta be consistent inside of eight feet, you have to get up and down a lot. You have to have a smile like Matt Kuchar.”
PACE OF PLAY
Watch Bill Haas, Robert Garrigus, Pat Perez, Brandt Snedeker, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, just to name a few of the faster players on the PGA Tour. They set a good example for how long you should take to hit the golf ball. They’re usually hitting as soon as the other guy’s ball is in the air.
Play ready golf. Get your yardage and pick your club while you’re walking to the ball or while you’re waiting for your playing partners to hit. Four hours is more than enough time for a round of golf.
Watch a number of the ladies on the LPGA who have their caddies line them up on every shot (even though for amateurs this could help, so I encourage it every now and again to check your alignment, but definitely not on every shot or two-foot putt). Six-hour rounds aren’t fun for anyone.
Mark a putt inside three feet. The pros are playing for millions and an 18-inch putt could cost them hundreds of thousands and a major championship. Unless you’re playing for more than you have in your bank account (which you shouldn’t be doing in the first place), just putt out.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is … HAVE FUN. Yeah, yeah, I know, that sounds so cliche, but it’s easy to forget. There’s no reason to get angry and throw clubs. It shouldn’t be stressful for an amateur to play a round of golf. I understand that some of us are inherently competitive and we can’t help getting fired up a little, but let’s keep it within reason. Four-letter words sort of go hand-in-hand with golf, so I recommend using those as a release, then move on to the next shot.
Perhaps Ryan Palmer, a three-time champ on the PGA Tour, had the best advice: “Get a six-pack before you tee off.”
You should check out the online magazine version with all the pretty pictures and formatting here.
By Titi Nguyen
One November morning, four years ago, I received a call from my mother. Before I could say hello, she blurted her news: she’d just been at a client’s house. Their son, Douglas, was visiting, and was even more handsome than when she’d seen him last. And she had his e-mail address. Did I have a pen ready?
When I said I had no idea who she was talking about, she huffed and I huffed back. My parents work as housekeepers in the affluent towns neighboring their home in Quincy, Mass., and this wouldn’t be the first time my mother tried to set me up with their clients’ sons. But how could I feel affection for anyone whose T-shirts and socks my mother laundered?
After a moment I remembered that I had met this man, years ago, when I was 19. My parents had cleaned his parents’ home every two weeks for the past eight years. When my parents told them I was having a difficult first year at college in New York, they suggested I meet their son, a 35-year-old artist living in Brooklyn. It wasn’t matchmaking — only a sympathetic gesture to take me out of my school malaise. I don’t remember much about that day, except that I met Douglas at the four-faced clock in the center of Grand Central Terminal and that we visited a rare books store after lunch. I didn’t recall our conversation, the cafe where we ate or even what he looked like.
To appease my mother, but also because I was struck with the thought that it had been kind of him to meet with me years before, I e-mailed Douglas to express my condolences over his grandmother’s death — the reason for his visit home. After a few e-mails we made plans to see a dance performance.
To keep warm that cold night I waited behind the doors of the theater, watching through the glass for Douglas. That I recognized him surprised me, but he hadn’t changed much. He was slender, with deep-set brown eyes and dark hair that curled above his forehead. He wore a black parka with a turquoise knit scarf and held the bright purple book I was to identify him by. For a moment I watched him scan the crowd for me, then I pushed through the doors and walked toward him.
“Hi. I’m not crying,” he said, wiping his eyes. “My eyes water in the winter.”
Inside, a woman handed us programs. Douglas dropped his and the woman and I watched as he knelt to pick it up. “You nervous or something, mister?” she teased, winking at me. I tittered and at the same time, for reasons unclear to me, felt an overwhelming tenderness for this man. I couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed or simply hadn’t heard her, but he looked for the aisle and led me to our seats in silence. We’d arrived so shortly before the beginning of the show that there was little time to talk.
“I think this will be really good,” he said to me, as the lights dimmed.
He leaned forward in his chair throughout the performance, mesmerized. I wanted to watch his face, to see him react to the movements we saw onstage. I tried to remember what his parents’ house looked like, if the few times I’d tagged along cleaning with my parents were enough to recall where all the trash baskets were — wedged beside a toilet, hidden under a desk or in a walk-in closet. I wondered if he’d ever forgotten that turquoise scarf on a visit home, if my mother or father had picked up and folded the soft wool.
My arm grazed his discarded coat, slung over his seat; I imagined it was his arm. He came from a small, hard place inside me, a jagged land of filial indignation, Clorox and dusting rags, and I was shaken by my attraction to him.
We saw more and more of each other. One night a few months later, in a diner booth in Astoria, Queens, Douglas told me two things: First, he really liked me. Second, he felt bad about liking me: “I won’t say that our age difference doesn’t worry me, and I know the situation with our families is very difficult. If we were to be together, I’d like to work through these issues with you.” Then he sat back, a stunned look on his face.
My mother’s reaction to our relationship was so enthusiastic that it roused my suspicions. I wondered if her excitement was linked to Douglas’s whiteness, his Americanness. Unlike most traditional Asian mothers, she encourages me to date white men. Surely someone who grew up anchored in American culture would be more financially and socially assured; certainly my American boyfriend would be able to navigate the culture that has confounded her for so long. She also believes that a white man will treasure me more than an Asian man, because I’m different from what he comes from.
In bed, my eyes trace the blue veins shooting through the milk of his skin, like eggshell cracks, then the prominent veins that stretch over the tops of his feet like nets. I’m fascinated by the differences between his body and mine — the skin underneath his alert eyes loosening the tiniest bit, the occasional gray strand in his dark hair. We don’t dare to talk about it, but it’s as tangible as the blare of car horns outside our windows: What will happen when he grows old?
I do the math: when I’m 30, Douglas will be 46; when I turn 35, he’ll be 50. More variables: if we have a baby when Douglas is 45, he’ll be 60 when our child is 15. Sometimes I feel cheated by time: if only we’d met sooner, if only he were younger. If X equals this, Y equals that. Y is always greater than X.
Other times, I don’t think of it at all. Our four years together have been happy. Our apartment is comfortably messy, and I don’t often clean — the 1950s red Formica table that belonged to Douglas’s grandmother serves more as dumping ground than a dining surface: unopened mail, pens, receipts, loose change, a lamp with a ceramic dog base, two electric toothbrush chargers, a spool of green twine. Coats and jeans drape the backs of the chairs. We eat our dinners on the living room floor instead. I stretch my legs out in front of me and he scoots over, leaning against me. He carefully trims the fat off the edges of his steak and transports the pieces to my plate, where he knows they’ll be savored. In these times, our differences recede into the background.
My mother and father still strip the sheets off Douglas’s parents’ bed, sponge the dried toothpaste off their mirrors, vacuum their rugs. Every two weeks, they dust the bedroom that was once his.
“Their son is an artist,” my father said to me years ago as we straightened the cushions on the sofa in the living room. “That’s him, over there.”
He pointed. Two dense pupils stared at us from behind the glass of the large framed drawing hanging on the wall. It was Douglas’s self-portrait, rendered in smudged whorls of charcoal. I didn’t care to look closer then. I’ve since studied the drawing, its intensity pulling me away from Thanksgiving dinners to examine the hollows and lines that I now know so well. He was 19 when he drew himself, the age I was when I first met him.