Uncategorized

Faith and Chai was hosted Monday, Feb. 21, 2017 , by Jasmine Patel, and Vincent Loyal, both second-year biology students from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship as a space for South Asian students of different faiths to discuss what is similar and what is different about their faiths.

Patel said that “[Faith and Chai] was created by South Asian InterVarsity as a way to reach more South Asian students on campuses across the nation” while Loyal wanted to create a space for dialogue, discussion about faith, and a community for South Asians.

About twenty students, ranging from first to fourth-years, of different South Asian backgrounds came for the first meeting, greeted by the friendly faces of Vincent and Jasmine. They explained their aims for the space to be where one learnt from another no matter the faith background. In addition, they hoped to create a network of new friendships and for participants to consider how faith and spirituality play a role in their lives this quarter and beyond.

An important community agreement Vincent and Jasmine addressed before breaking into groups was to enforce, wherever possible, the use of ‘I’ statements. They added that people are individuals, not spokespeople for their own faiths. It adds a lot of pressure on individuals to speak for their communities, rather than for themselves and their experiences. Other community agreements included having respect for others even if there was disagreement about a certain perspective, and an equal level of participation among all people in the discussion.

Before having groups of students engage in dialogue, there was a team building exercise that involved participants assembling structures from old newspapers, paper clips and rubber bands in a friendly yet competitive manner. “While it seemed silly first,” said Lamia Abbas, a second-year psychobiology student, “it eased conversations about faith later on.” The winners of this short exercise were treated to the samosas (deep fried pastry snack prevalent in many South Asian countries) and chai first.

The dialogues began about an hour after the event began, allowing  an hour’s time for the significant conversations to ensue. The questions suggested ranged from “What is the central message or chief goal of your faith” to “In your opinion, what is humankind’s reason for being?” In response to the former question, Abbas said, “[my] relationship with organized religion is complicated.” Similar sentiments were echoed by students Vineet Mathew, a second-year computational and systems biology student and a Shrita Pendekanti, a second-year neuroscience student.

There were many great takeaways from the event. One of the last questions by Loyal, “what have you come to appreciate of different faiths in the South Asian community?” made it clear how positively the dialogue impacted the attendees. Matthew appreciated “realizing how similar we all are” while Pendekanti lauded how during the dialogue, others “articulated thoughts [she] had but wasn’t able to express.” Marsha Noeline, a second-year mechanical engineering student concluded that “in the coming years, these spaces are going to be really necessary.”

Although the event was supposed to end at 9 p.m.,  conversations lasted for far longer than that. Both student organizers received a lot of positive feedback, and Patel said they “want to continue to create spaces where South Asian students can come together to share about their own faiths and learn about others. We are also very open to collaborating with other South Asian groups on campus to make these events more widely known and more welcoming to the South Asian community.”

Ashley Beteta was always interested in Korean culture. In high school, she started a Korean culture club. She would research facts about Korea and present them to her classmates at weekly meetings. When she came to UCLA, she decided to study political science with a concentration in international relations.

However, the major and focus was not enough, so she searched for a Korean cultural club. Now as a second-year student, Beteta is the historian for Hanoolim – UCLA’s only Korean cultural organization dedicated to spreading cultural awareness.

Hanoolim, established in 1990, was originally a political organization aimed to raise awareness to Korean immigration and discrimination issues. Through poongmul, or traditional Korean drumming, the student-run organization participated in demonstrations and protests, standing at the battlefront especially when the Los Angeles riots struck Koreatown in 1992.

The student group helped lead a march through Koreatown during the riots, performing poongmul while the crowd followed and cheered on, according to a 1992 Daily Bruin article.

 

Hanoolim 1990_ la riots
Photo courtesy of Hanoolim KCAG.

“We need to show support. We need to show that students care about the community,” said Raphael Hong, a member of Hanoolim then, in the article.

After 24 years, though much less politically oriented, Hanoolim still maintains close ties with its community. Every year Hanoolim participates in the annual Koreatown Ji Shin Balp Ki (JSBK), a Lunar New Year tradition to remove evil spirits and to bring good luck to residences and stores. The poongmul team, along with UCI’s and USC’s, would go from door to door and perform the traditional Korean art.

The experience is “just amazing. Lot of older adults (are) so touched by the sight of us playing and that young people are celebrating traditional Korean holidays,” recalled Sally Oh, external vice president of Hanoolim and a third-year student, when she led the poongmul team at JSBK last year.

Besides serving its community, Hanoolim also shares the arts and traditions of Korea to the UCLA community. Just recently, Hanoolim hosted its annual Korean Culture Festival at Bruin Plaza, showcasing Korean food and hanbok, a traditional festive attire, to name a few.

Photo courtesy of Hanoolim KCAG.
Photo courtesy of Hanoolim KCAG.

First-year student and Hanoolim member Minsoo Kim said when the festival was nearing its conclusion, a woman asked him the names of all the Korean food that was served so the next time she was at a Korean restaurant, she would know what to order.

“People seemed pretty excited to go and play” the traditional games, added Kim.

It was “fun for me to see people play traditional Korean games, put on traditional clothing,” said Beteta. “(I) felt so much pride to showcase.”

Near the end of the academic year, Hanoolim additionally hosts the annual Korean Culture Night, a collaborative event that emphasizes the arts and dances of Korea. One particular art emphasized is none other than poongmul.

Poongmul is very tied to our traditional culture. It was the music used by the more common people back in history,” described Hyeri Choi, a fourth-year student and current lead poongmul coordinator.

Photo courtesy of Hanoolim.
Photo courtesy of Hanoolim KCAG.

And just like the commoners in ancient Korea, the lead coordinators upheld the oral nature of the art, passing the music down to new members verbally. There is neither script nor sheet music for reference.

“This is the way it’s done, the only way it could be done,” said Choi.

Despite it being a hundreds-year-old art, other members of the poongmul team find no contention with the practice.

“I do appreciate how there is an effort to keep the tradition alive,” said Kim who is also a member of the team.

Alli Kang, a first-year student and member, expressed, “I’m really proud that I’m able to connect to my culture in an ancient way … Why did I not do this earlier?”

Whether it be because of the traditional drumming, community outreach or people, Hanoolim truly establishes itself as a cultural group and a community.

“One major thing is that our club has the word cultural in its name,” said YooJeong Han, a second-year student and the event coordinator for Hanoolim. “The majority of clubs that I saw … were all focused on (Korean people), whereas our club is getting everybody and doing something Korean with them.”

“Hanoolim gives you a lot of opportunities to be not only a part of the Korean community but also the UCLA community. (You can) be part of something bigger, get opportunities to either perform or run (a) show,” mentioned Oh.

“It really (is an) incredibly inclusive and welcoming community,” noted Choi.

Sharon Lee, a third-year student and president of Hanoolim, said, “Doesn’t matter (who) you are. We accept everybody.”

 

Ramen shops, souvenir stores, hotels and a Japanese supermarket inhabit Little Tokyo. Amidst all this busyness, standing out the brightest and most colorful is Sanrio, a Japanese toy store dedicated to selling “kawaii” – or cute – trinkets, dolls, and Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty, along with all the other Hello Kitty-themed merchandise, do not just live in Little Tokyo. You can find them all around Los Angeles and all the way to China. They have also found their way onto designer clothes, cosmetics, and food.

These characters are everywhere, and we have come to accept them as permanent residents of where we live. However, we distinctly recognize them as Japanese. We know they are from Japan and only Japan. This was not always the case.

Hello Kitty, or more precisely the concept of kawaii, started in 1970s Japan as a handwriting trend. Traditional Japanese script was written vertically and used strokes of varied thickness. The new style was written laterally, involving rounded strokes and pictures, such as hearts and stars, embedded within the characters.

Many educators found the writing style to be extremely difficult to read, so it was widely banned in schools. But, the trend had already started.

By 1985, more than half of 15- to 18-year-old females surveyed utilized the new writing style, while 20 percent of males in the same age range used it, according to a study conducted by professor Kazuma Yamane, an expert in kawaii handwriting.

Sanrio, recognizing the trend early on, capitalized on kawaii handwriting, selling stationery and greeting cards printed with cute designs and the stylized handwriting. In 1990, the company monopolized that industry and sold $1.6 billion worth of products.

Simultaneously in 1970s Japan, the toy business was booming and proving to be a source of economic growth. The rising popularity of anything kawaii was inevitable. By the 1980s, businesses, banks, and airlines had adopted cute characters for promotional advertising or as the company’s logo. Pop idols were using baby talk, acting innocent, and wearing childish clothes.

“Trivial things occupied everyday minds … talking about lazy things … kind of helped maintain everyday routine [in postwar Japan],” said Ryoko Nishijima, a cultural anthropology PhD student at UCLA. “Postwar Japan has this reluctance to be political … [so] kawaii culture became the buffer.”

Despite kawaii culture’s success in Japan, America still had not recognized kawaii or even any Japanese products. How did Japan make its mark in the US market? How did the country manage to inform everybody about the origins of Pokémon, Sony TVs, Hello Kitty?

Following World War 2, all Japanese products entering the US market had to be “culturally odorless,” meaning the product was effaced of anything that could conjure up the idea that the product was from Japan. Kuroki Yasuo, the inventor of Sony’s Walkman, took this policy to heart when he exported the cassette player to America. But, in a 1995 letter, Yasuo was dismayed, lamenting that nobody could recognize the ingenuity as Japanese. He then argued this would change when Japan enters the field of games and media and acquires “soft” power.

In a publication, cultural anthropologist Anne Allison quoted Harvard University professor Joseph Nye’s definition of soft power as the “ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments.”

“Power of this nature comes from inspiring the dreams and desires of others through projecting images about one’s own culture that are broadly appealing and transmitted through channels of global communication (such as television and film),” added Allison.

Slowly and surely, Japan acquired such power in the means Yasuo predicted through kawaii culture. When popular animated TV series Sailor Moon aired in 1995 in the US, it garnered attention from a variety of people. Although the show was not a success, attention started to shift away from Hollywood films to works from Japan. Viewers who liked it admired the split nature of the main character Sailor Moon – a schoolgirl who is good-looking, lazy, klutzy, and fashionable, wearing a mini-skirted sailor outfit when she transforms and saves the world from aliens. She possesses a school-girl lifestyle in which many viewers could relate to – something Hollywood could not create with its idealistic heroes.

In 1998, Nintendo went several steps further than Sailor Moon. The company marketed Pokémon Red Version and Blue Version, which immediately drew the attention of many children, adolescents and adults.

The games not only marketed over 100 kawaii “pocket monsters,” but also conflated the cuteness with interactivity. Allison expresses in a publication, “It is not only that the imaginary characters of Pokémon are ‘cute’ … but that cuteness here invites a different type of interaction. Bringing these characters out of the screen, so to speak, triggers the fantasy of enveloping them into everyday life.”

As a result of Pokémon, many Americans became more and more interested in Japan’s culture, cities, and lifestyle.

Today, Americans can easily conflate a Japanese product with Japan and even feel more inclined to purchase or watch Japanese media.

Sujan Kim, a second-year English major student at UCLA, described Japanese games as easily “distinguished by its art style.”

“I feel like the anime style is very distinct: big eyes, bright hair, elaborate costumes, etc. Even games like the Professor Layton series has a very anime touch despite the game taking place in London with British characters,” Kim added.

“With Japanese [role playing games], there is a strong sense of progression in the gameplay as you travel across the world, collect items and weapons and abilities, and grow more powerful. There is usually a strong narrative focus and deeply intricate worlds with many places to explore and many sidequests to complete, even if the world itself is not particularly large,” said a 19-year-old UCLA student who chose to not be named.

When watching anime, Amy Black, a third-year biology UCLA student, always prefers the original version with Japanese voice acting and scenes over the version with English dubs.

Black also commented on the compelling themes found in anime and Japanese video games.

“Storytelling is different compared to American video games. … Lot of themes in there were very unique … [and the] Japanese voice actors are significantly better than the English actors,” added Black.

Because of anime, Black became more intrigued by Japanese culture, even taking UCLA courses that teach about Japan’s arts, literature, etc. Many other students acquired such intrigue in the same manner.

“I’m fascinated by Japanese culture. I love its colorful history and culture. I have to say films like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke have inspired many of these interests because of their acute depictions of Japanese culture,” said Kim.

Dear My Immigrant Parents,

I want to start by asking you both a question. What was it like moving to a country where you would start off with a clean slate, from your social circles to your education, and even the way that you would assimilate into society as individuals? I ask because I cannot imagine the work that must have been put into moving from a culture that stressed the importance of collective identity such as India, to one in which the focus is on the individual before the family.
o-l7yivg_jocy8us_pbrktaoftmxkepm-guyiw_fkoihpxb7wwirxwu83red16mgbfeqmaulgtvgqsnw3imtjbxawj_hbdcvqc72w38yhogpiosb-qrbt_sxs2_-4nunytcvtvyj

Mom, this must have been so hard for you. I know this to be true because you pride yourself on family values and have built your maternal empire in the U.S. on the importance of family. I can only imagine the loneliness from sitting at home waiting for Dad to return from work so you could have a sense of familiarity in an unknown country.

Dad, I know those nights were not easy for you either: having Mom wait for you at home while you work during the day and take classes at night to attain your graduate degree to make ends meet. You had a lonely bride and tons of responsibility both here in the U.S. and in India. That responsibility came from taking care of your family back in India and your family out here in the states.

How did you two do it? How could you share such a small apartment in Culver City with multiple people? I am sitting in my apartment in Westwood attending the same university that you did Dad, but the main difference here is my support system is 30 minutes away, while your support system was oceans away. I am not on my own.  I am not putting in the same amount of work for my opportunities. I have no burden of responsibilities on my shoulder. Why? Because my parents made the choice to move to this country and give me the freedoms that they did not have. I visualize the struggles that you both went through to make it in this country. There were  cultural and racial barriers to overcome, and you went the extra mile when it seemed impossible, with all the sleepless nights, blood, sweat, and tears to achieve your dreams.

Mom, when you tell me “It’s not that I did not have a career Sabreen, I did work when we first moved to the country,” tears roll down my eyes because you never have to justify that you were a career woman, my respect and appreciation for you is trifold. The work that you’ve done to support Dad when he was rising in his business, and the buses you took through the Rodney King Riots to get to work were enough to generate multiple opportunities for many generations to come. The sacrifice you made to stay at home and raise Shefa and me, gave us plenty of opportunities for the future. You made it Mom, your career will pay back in the best dividends, we promise. Thank you Mom.

Dad, you came to this country with less than a thousand dollars in your pocket. Yet, my tuition at UCLA is much more than that. You allow me to study without the fear of not having fees for the next quarter, compared to the time you wondered whether you would be able to pay fees and the apartment rent while you were a student.

1xlomc6pfdwlaiiwz8zop-tppeoi8vt4w07svi5zjrxb5wj7fkeqjswnsdyhzg9y3r5_m6pvknyag-5ujwo-em9nuigksfptpfxppe5mze-xqehelhwmjlvdygxtu-at4ne-nmlv

Without your sacrifice, I would not have the type of time freedom that I do right now, the ability to pursue my dreams without having to worry about my constraint on time during the day, whether it be from a part time job or work study. I am grateful, that I can allocate all my time to pursuing my goals without any responsibilities weighing me down.

To my immigrant parents, I thank you with every cell in my body; your efforts will be paid back in the smallest amounts of happinesses throughout your life, but never will we be able to pay you for all that have you done for us. The sacrifices you made for us were so monumental that they will impact many generations of our family to come.

Yours Truly,

Ever Grateful Child

On April 24, the UCLA Film and Photography Society hosted Freddie Wong, a Youtuber from the popular YouTube channel RocketJump and a co-director for the series Video Game High School. Wong discussed his early days, how he got into filmmaking and various video projects.

A USC film school graduate, Wong first got into filmmaking in high school. He describes his high school experience as opportune for filmmaking because the iMac had just been released, along with FireWire and those iMacs and DV cameras were readily available at school. Wong was able to take advantage of these resources throughout ninth grade. “I was very lucky because (of) all that technology available at that time,” says Wong.

At the same time, Wong was creating montages of his family vacations and experiences and setting various musical scores to them. He felt at that point creating was what he wanted to do.  

Filmmaking as a career was not the original plan, despite Wong’s interest in the subject. The goal was to graduate high school and enter college as a computer science major. Making videos was more of a fun hobby. However, Wong’s high school video projects and weekly visits to Blockbuster to rent two or three movies greatly influenced his career plans.

“We didn’t grow up with YouTube, we didn’t grow up with, like, Snapchat, we didn’t grow up with anything other than just Blockbuster. So, it was a different sort of approach because for us, for me, it was not like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be a Hollywood movie director.’ It was more ‘I like making movies,’ and I never really put the two together until later,” says Wong.

When college applications came around, Wong applied to numerous film schools including NYU, USC and UCLA. He matriculated at USC as a film major.

At USC, Wong learned and developed cinematography techniques and, most importantly, established his filmmaking philosophy.

“The most interesting movies came from people who have different life experiences,” Wong asserts. “(You need) something to say. If you don’t have that, your art is just technique without substance,” says Wong.

After college, most aspiring filmmakers follow the conventional path: make a film, show it at a festival, hope a distributor sees it and signs you as a director. But, in 2008, when Wong graduated, the path became too difficult and near impossible, according to him. As it was free, YouTube became the most viable option.

YouTube “was a different sort of environment,” says Wong. At his time, he describes YouTube as being more music-based and having more creativity. Creative people were throwing ideas around and seeing what worked and what did not.

As Wong’s viewership increased, his projects began to expand. He recalls a project, “Beach Justice,” which was filmed in Georgia. Someone offered a haunted house at an inn to Wong and his team. Wong was not interested in a horror themed video, but when the team got onto the “hilariously long” rooftops, ideas started spewing. In an hour, there was a video.

When Wong started tackling bigger projects, particularly the three seasons of “Video Game High School,” the process in making them was relatively similar to making short videos, says Wong. “The difference was the big crew. It was working with a larger apparatus. … It was about learning how to delegate. … It was more complex. There was lot more stuff going on: more actors that we’ve never worked before, more extras, more stunts, safety, pyrotechnics.”  

Although he has reached a certain level of acclaim with just his YouTube channel, Wong still regards film school as essential.

“The number one thing I got out from [film] school was the group of people I graduated with. You can’t network up. It’s just not happening. … What you can get though is you can network with the people at your level and you grow up together because that’s where everybody else is. All the directors and producers [work with] people they knew when they were growing up. That’s the biggest thing,” says Wong.

“At the end of the day, filmmaking is not [songwriting] — it’s not anything — you need other people to make a movie: actors. You need more than just yourself. It’s a group endeavor. That’s why it’s an interesting art form because it’s an art form that requires the voice of a lot of people.”

Wong and his team are still making videos for the RocketJump channel, but, in addition, they are collaborating with Lions Gate Entertainment to make a movie.

For more Freddie Wong, check out the website RocketJump.

The following article contains sensitive content such as violence and rape.

The 2016 Korean Culture Night (KCN), “When You Kill A Butterfly,” recounts the story of a group of Korean girls who were forced to become comfort women, sex slaves for the Imperial Japanese Army World War II.

Historically, the Japanese military had started comfort stations that held girls from Korea, China, Taiwan, Philippines, etc. because: 1. Soldiers had raped civilian women in occupied areas on numerous occasions, and the military hoped to prevent worsening of anti-Japanese feelings. 2. There was a need to prevent the spread of venereal diseases among officers and men. 3. It was feared that contact with civilian women could result in the leaking of military secrets.

According to the KCN program, the aftermath of comfort stations to comfort women was both physical and psychological. Most survivors were left infertile due to sexual trauma or sexually transmitted diseases. Moreover, they did not openly discuss what happened at first because traditional Asian culture emphasize the importance of purity for women. Thus, comfort women were afraid of the social judgement and shame that they would receive if the public was aware.

As time passed, many comfort women decided to step out and openly share their terrible, tragic stories, and both governments and individuals responded and began to demand apologies and compensations.

At first, the Japanese government denied any coercion toward the comfort women, but the Chinese government later found “ironclad proof,” documents from the archives of the military police corps, that disproves the Japanese government’s claim.

Su Zhiliang, director of the China research centre on comfort women, said, according to the found documents, “in Nanking, for instance, there were 141 women and 2,500 Japanese soldiers… That is to say, one woman had to be tortured 178 times within 10 days.”

In 1995, Japan set up the privately run Asian Women’s Fund that offered compensation for comfort women. However, most survivors rejected the offer because it was funded by private donations and did not come directly from the Japanese government.

The Japanese government had refused to directly compensate the women because it believes all claims were settled by post WWII treaties that normalised diplomatic ties, and Japanese officials often deny or minimize the dehumanizing treatment of comfort women.

On December 20, 2015, the Japanese and South Korean government had reached a resolution on the issues with comfort women: Japanese government will apologise and pay one billion yen ($8.3 million USD) to compensate survivors.

In a survey poll, however, more than half of the Korean population is unsatisfied with the results — for good reasons.

For South Korea and Japan, the agreement is a breakthrough for their tense foreign relations. For the 46 remaining Korean women survivors, the deal was made behind their backs — none were consulted on the terms of the deal.

“Shouldn’t you have met with the victims before trying to reach a settlement?” An elderly survivor asked South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister, who visited the women after the announcement was made. “How could you do this, when we are alive as witnesses and evidence of the historical facts?”

The deal involves neither an official apology nor reparations from the Japanese government. While the Japanese government agreed to pay one billion yen, the money is considered a “humanitarian gesture” to the survivors.

In return for the one billion yen, the Japanese government announced that its Prime Minister Abe considered the funds conditional on the removal of a ‘comfort women’ statue in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

The ‘apology’ fails to state the legal liability of the Japanese government. In other words, the military authorities were blamed and the Japanese state has no legal responsibility.

The horror comfort women faced continue to hunt them today, but one remark from the closing remarks of KCN reminds its audience that similar atrocities still happen — human trafficking and sexual slavery are still major issues worldwide.

While telling a story of the past, KCN also drew attention on current controversies and problems we still face today.

Sign In

Reset Your Password