Saturday, April 12, 2014

Squared: Director Hieu Tran Challenges Queer Asian Stereotypes

  An important breakthrough short is screening at the Vietnamese Film Festival at Anaheim GardenWalk's UltraLuxe Cinema.  "Squared," directed, written and produced by Hieu Tran successfully challenges conventional views of Queer Asian males sexual practices and preferences.

To hear our Subversity Online interview with Hieu Tran (left), click here.

Turning conventional views on their head, the beautifully photographed 15-minute film, finished last October, portrays a buff Vietnamese American (Wally, played by Ethan Le Phong) who picks up buff Caucasian American (Dr. Tate Middleton, played by Yamil Jaiman) and both discover in bed that they are "tops". 

U don't bottom?

As the two characters (CUTEAZNBOI and TOPDAWG) confront that dilemma, they proceed to see who is better endowed.

Viewers don't get to see actual genitalia but the film has a surprise (watch it to find out).  It also leads to a wrestling match to see who is the stronger (more masculine?) guy.

We asked in our interview with the director why he made this film; Hieu Tran tells us it's to challenge long-lasting stereotypes about Asian queers who are almost invariably depicted as "bottoms" or submissive in bed.   He tells us that Jamil Jaiman, who is straight in real life, gives his first kiss to a man Ethan Le Phong) in the film.  Shot in the director's lodgings in the Hillcrest district of San Diego, the film manages, in just 15 minutes, to cover a lot of ground - and is an early indication of the brilliance of this young filmmaker, who would like to make films but also photograph them.

Born in Danang, Vietnam, he came to the U.S. at age 4, and unlike other Vietnamese American filmmakers from Southern California, is perfectly happy to try to break into the film industry here in the United States, and not in his native land.  I must say with this short his prospects look good. 

Lovers in bed
The short is paired with a feature film, Nadine Truong's "Someone I Used to Know," screening at 5 pm on Sunday, 13 April, 2014 at the Vietnamese Film Festival, UltraLuxe Cinema, Anaheim Garden Walk, 321 Katella Avenue, Anaheim. - Daniel C. Tsang

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Remembering Cataloger Lowell Herbrandson

[Update 23 April 2014:  There will not be any public services; cremation is private, pending completion of an autopsy by the Orange County Coroner.  The  Herbrandson family feels it is somehow fitting that Lowell's last hours were spent at UC Irvine, where he had many friends and colleagues.  A family member was notified by the police the day after his heart attack and contacted Hoag.  He also was able to retrieve Lowell's car from the UCI Student Center parking structure (although later he received in the mail a parking ticket for Lowell's car - which he has appealed).  In addition, a Humanities administrator passes on the information that a Humanities staff member - who wishes to remain anonymous - valiantly tried (in vain) to revive Lowell before the arrival of the EMT crew, by giving him CPR.  See also the comments field for further information on Lowell's last day.]

It is with great sadness I share news of the passing of Lowell D. Herbrandson, who worked at UCI Libraries from 1985-2004, last Friday afternoon, 4 April 2014.   Lowell succumbed to a massive heart attack on Ring Road near Humanities at UC Irvine and, despite the valiant efforts of the EMT crew and the medical staff, remained unconscious, even after being transported to Hoag Hospital, Irvine.  His passing was confirmed this morning by the Orange County Coroner's office.

Lowell enjoying Chinese cuisine, May 2013. 

Photo © Daniel C. Tsang

Lowell, 67, was on one of his periodic visits to the campus from his home in Lawndale - anticipating having lunch with a former colleague in the Catalog department, and then dinner with other former colleagues  He had emailed me last week to say he also had library books to return.  When he collapsed, he had the books with him, walking on the outer ring circling the campus, and headed toward Langson Library from Ayala Science Library.

Lowell served UCI a serials cataloger and union representative.  He had arrived at UC Irvine a year before I did, so our friendship lasted almost 30 years.  After retiring, he also did a stint as Acting Assistant Librarian at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles.  An Anglophile, he also was deeply engaged in his passion in researching things British, including heraldry.   In September, 2011 he also finished compiling a list he had started in 1975 of Los Angeles County place names.  The document spanned over 3,000 pages of annotations.  [Description updated.]

He was proud of his days at UC Irvine Libraries.   His recent emails had below his name "Lowell":

"UCI (1985-2004)
10 yrs of retirement on 11 June 2014"

Two days before his passing, he had this below his signature line:

"2004-2014, UCI Retirement on 11 June, my birthday."

Right before his retirement in 2004, he sent out an email to his UCI Libraries co-workers, noting in part: "I have a particular fondness for my early years from 1985 to 1994, the "Boyer Years", before we moved into the Science Library in June 1994. It was another time, and another place that will not be forgotten by those of us..."  Calvin Boyer was during that early period the Library Director.

His commentary in his personal emails to me on current events were often short but pithy.

In his 2 April 2014 email: "Did you feel the Quake? We are on the Inglewood-Newport Fault here, and the house had a jolly shake. The rain has been nice too, but not the cold winds."

In a May Day 2008 email, he wrote:

"A Happy May Day to you both. In Elementary School in the early 1950's we still honoured May Day." Note the British spelling.

 Later that year, after the financial collapse, he emailed :

"Is it not wonderful that we have our retirement $$$  in 403b's, IRA's, mutual funds and individuals stocks in the STOCK MARKET? Let's see there was 1987, 2001, and now  2008. It would seem that except for the monthly UC retirement check, and the current check from the museum that things could look a lot worse real soon. I wonder about all of the UCI retirees that took their lump sum bye outs?  The market giveth, and the market taketh away!!"

A registered Republican, he often was more liberal than his party.  In the same email (15 September 2008) he also noted sardonically:

"Saint Palin has boosted the extreme base so the polls are now  tighter than a few weeks ago. The race is closer, but the margin of error is still pro-Obama based on some current polling. Some are saying that the increased  Palin interest  may be just a  bump? Some are also suggesting the increased voting registration numbers could or  should push the Dem's over the top? Can they blame the Stock Market Crash on the Dem's is really lame, so what is new."

He ended his email commentary: "I wonder how long it will take before the market will head back over 12,000 again?"

Yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 16,437.18.

He was looking forward to eating out last Friday evening.  In various emails, he deplored the lack of good Chinese restaurants in his neighborhood in Lawndale.  For example, in the May Day 2008 email, he was already noting: "I really miss our Friday evening meals, and your good company. The best Asian food around here is the Panda Express which is about 0.25 mile away." Just 8 days ago, he wrote: "It would be good to see you again, and 'to break bread together'."

When Eddie (another retired colleague) and I went out eating with him, he was forever the gentleman, solicitous towards Eddie (whom he referred to as "Herr Doktor"), making sure Eddie got portions before he did.  A typical after-dinner excursion was to a mall - where during the holiday season, I recall teenagers running by him and yelling "Hi, Santa" - with his white beard and Norwegian stock and jovial personality - Lowell undoubtedly looked like Santa Claus.  Eddie would tell the teens: "He really is Santa Claus" because he fit Santa to a T.

His mind was always thinking of ways to improve library services.  Noting he had to come in to renew his retiree library card by 14 June, 2014, he had what turned out to be a final plea in his 2 April 2014 email: "I wish that I could do this online via a secured line?"

Services have not been announced.   -- Daniel C. Tsang.