Thursday, August 27, 2015

OC Weekly's 20th Anniversary: My Reflections

This week, the iconoclastic OC Weekly celebrates its 20th anniversary!  I was there almost at the beginning, one year or so later, in 1996, penning my first founding editor Will Swaim-commissioned piece, after he noticed the strange obit about Japanese internment camp-denier Lillian Baker in the Los Angeles Times.  

I've already reposted last July that earliest piece in Subversities but here is again an image of that first freelance article I wrote for the paper.

My original article appeared in OC Weekly 29 November-5 December 1996, pages 9-10

In all, from 1996 to 2003, even before the weekly began reducing freelance contributions, I wrote dozens of articles, some under the column "Civil Unliberties," a takeoff of Calvin Trillin's column elsewhere.  Using that name I covered police abuse in the county, especially in Little Saigon, where I was the weekly's first beat reporter, covering the regular eruptions of anti-communist fervor.

Here's a "wordle" of titles of my reportage in OC Weekly from 1999-2003 (plus the title "Real Lillian Baker" thrown in from 1996):

The OC Weekly web site only displays online my articles since 1999 so the earlier years are missing from that site.

The wordle above higlights the fact that Little Saigon was the focus of most of my articles since 1999. But I also covered police abuse, Asian "gangs" and queer uprisings, especially on high school campuses in OC Weekly.

On my KUC Subversity Show I actually interviewed Will Swaim on June 20 1995 just as the weekly was starting. (That interview was recorded on analog tape and not yet digitized.)  Will, whom I just ran into on campus outside Langson Library last week, was a return guest on Subversity in June 4, 2007, with Orange Coast Voice editor John Earl and CSUF Communications Prof. Jeff Brody, who also discussed OC Weekly on the show.

Will, who  was then-editor of The District (Long Beach) appears in the audio clip (around the 10 minute mark) when he debates later OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano's "Ask a Mexican" column with John and Jeff.  Said Will he was "not an Excel spread sheet kind of guy" and it "wasn't fun" anymore, explaining why he left the OC Weekly. Gustavo is also pilloried by John and defended by Will for Gustavo's coverage of  UC "recovered memory" Prof. Beth Loftus.  Also discussed in this 2007 interview is OC Weekly's coverage of ethnic issues and criminal justice with Will and John discussing whether or not Scott was too reliant on prosecutors' handouts (at the time).  (I'm glad Scott would later go after the incumbents in the OC Sheriff's position.)  I also had been told by a Managing Editor at the time that Scott was the "gatekeeper" of Little Saigon coverage, which was also discussed on the Subversity interview. 

On the current "Oral History of OC Weekly," for which writer Joel Beers interviewed me by phone a few months ago for some 20 minutes, here's what got extracted from the interview and was published this week in OC Weekly:

"Daniel C. Tsang, contributor, 1996-2003: I think at the time [1996], I was the only reporter who was a person of color. At first, they wanted me to write a horoscope column--because I was Asian, I guess. And I thought that that was crazy. And then they wanted me to write a gay-nightlife kind of column, and I wasn't interested. I am a gay, Asian-American activist and wasn't interested in fluff. But finally, they let me pick my own topics, like my column, "Civil Unliberties", which covered civil-rights violations in the county."

Truth be told, it was Will (if memory serves me) that asked if I wanted to do an astrology column, and then a gossip column a la Michael Musto in the Village Voice.  (Although I was active in the gay community I was not a club frequenter, except to pick up gay print media there.) Both Will and Gustavo have columns on OC Weekly in this week's edition, in addition, of course, to being quoted throughout the oral history.

I am glad there are more people of color there now who do good reportage at the OC Weekly. -  Daniel C. Tsang 


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Co-Founder Benny Tai on Hong Kong's Occupy Central

To listen to the audio of his talk as podcast on KUCI Subversity Online, click here.

Hong Kong's Occupy Central co-founder came to University of California, Irvine last Spring Quarter to speak before a graduate political science seminar taught by Prof. Dorothy Solinger.

Benny Tai at UCI seminar.  Photos © Daniel C. Tsang 2015
In his 28 April 2015 talk, Hong Kong University Law School Prof. Benny Tai explained the birth of Occupy Central and what happened when the student activists took over and turned it into the Umbrella Movement or Revolution, occupying streets in Hong Kong for weeks.

He said he had been a student activist in his university days and thought the Occupy Central actions would end after a brief period.  Instead the students led the way.

He also indicated Occupy Central was not copying the anti-capitalist stance of Occupy Movements elsewhere.

Asked if he had received funds from the U.S. for Occupy Central he said No.

After dinner another department on campus treated a small group of academics to Peking Duck dinner at Capital Seafood in Irvine's Diamond Jamboree retail mall.

There he was asked how he identified himself.  His response:  Hong Konger first, then Chinese.
Polls (notably those conducted at HKU by Dr. Robert Chung Ting-Yiu),  indicate that a majority in Hong Kong have been identifying as Hong Kongers (香港人) rather than Chinese, similar to the situation in Taiwan where the majority identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese.

Subversity Show host with Prof. Tai at dinner. 

Prof. Tai is still waiting to hear what his university will do over his acceptance of protests-related donations, which he turned over to HKU.  The then-dean of the Law School, Johannes Chan, who was supportive of the protests, is now on hold to become a top administrator at the University, after those who were Beijing-allied tried to block the move and criticized Prof. Tai as well.  HKU students recently took over a HKU Council meeting; the University administration is currently considering whether to bring charges against the student protesters.

For current news on the political situation in Hong Kong, click here:  Cantonese In-Media Hong Kong site | English site of the Real Hong Kong News.

-- Daniel C. Tsang.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Exquisite Portrayal of Queer Sexual Awakening

To hear our interview with the two directors, click here [link fixed now].

Irvine - Brazil is often portrayed in film for its flamboyant, colorful and musical extravagance. Taking a decidedly different stance are queer directors (a couple) Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon, who have written and directed this exquisite portrayal of teen sexual awakening in "Seashore."

Tomaz (Mauricio Barcellos) & Martin (Mateus Almada) explore each other in "Seashore"

Just on DVD and on VOD from Wolfe Video, the film starts off slow as the high schoolers Tomaz and Martin visit a relative's home. The slow pace is deliberate, as I found out in my interview last Friday (31 July 2015 via Skype) with the two directors, because they wanted to portray the reality of how a gay teen approaches the topic of coming out and reaching out to a best friend, and the friend's reaction.

The directors made this cognizant that Brazil has a negative human rights record regarding discrimination against homosexuals and wanting to offer hope for those contemplating reaching out to others.

"Seashore" had its world premiere at the 65th Berlinale earlier this year. It's not their first film - they also directed a lyrical short, "Ballet Dialogue" - about a young guy and an older man - so that, the directors told me, audiences don't forget the pioneers who led the way for the current generation.

Um Diálogo de Ballet - Trailer from avantefilmes on Vimeo.

-- Daniel C. Tsang, co-host, KUCI Subversity Online.