Charlie Hebdo

In light of the horrific murder at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine based in Paris, I came across an article about some leaked emails that uncovered Al Jazeera’s internal editorial debate amongst their staff. The composers of this email chain expressed their opinions, which are very different from each other, because of their diverse ethnicities around the world. These emails certainly highlighted differences of their belief systems, as they reflected upon the Charlie Hebdo incident–a cultural clash to a violent extreme…

Everyone knows that Asian cultures are more repressed, compared to the western ones. But, on the flip side, the disciplines were there based on respect and thoughtfulness. We Asians were taught to respect others before we get respected. Any criticism must be expressed carefully, sometimes using ancient phrases, expressions, metaphors, and/or humor, to keep it subtle. Otherwise it can be easily perceived as insults.

In Asian cultures, insult is the perhaps the biggest form of disrespect, equating bullying, and often times worse than physical assault, because of the psychological effect it can cause someone. There are many stories where one would rather die, commit suicide, than to be insulted, in order to protect his/her honor, or dignity.

In countries that champion freedom of speech and expressions, unfortunately, their laws also protect insults.

While Pope Francis condemned the murders, he warned against insults. He also said, with freedom, comes greater responsibility–He is totally right–The responsibility to protect and respect other people’s rights and space.

We have the right to bear arms, doesn’t mean we can go around killing other people…

We have the freedom of speech and expression, doesn’t mean we can go around hurting other people.

Words and expressions of criticism, if not careful, can be easily perceived as insults. And hurtful insults can escalate into another world war! Because, like murder, it can pierce a heart.

In the case of Charlie Hebdo, I would never ever make a drawing or write words like that. Because, for one, religion is people’s spiritual lives. Secondly, satire is often taken out of context, therefore become untruthful and perhaps insulting. If there’s an issue that I must criticize, I would carefully and thoughtfully craft the criticism in a way that wouldn’t insult others. It’s very hard to do… But doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, for the sake of peace.

That’s just me… So…

I condemn the heinous killing. But I am not Charlie. 

Leaked Aljazeera internal emails

Our Favorite Winter Breakfast – Chicken Rice Soup

In my childhood memory, winter in Taipei was always gray and cold. Taiwan, sitting at Tropic of Cancer, never snowed. But, because it is a basin city, with humidity trapped within the surrounding hills, the chilly winter rain was always cold enough to pierce the bones. Everyone would get sick everyday, sniffles and sneezes everywhere…

This was the season when Mother always had a pot of chicken soup ready to serve at any time, especially for breakfast at 6:30 in the morning — Yes: The children in my family grew up having chicken soup for breakfast. 🙂 It warmed our soul, and it prepared us for the work/school day ahead. Especially for the tough city commute that sometimes had my head sandwiched between the standing people’s buttocks on a bus… Only in Taipei.

IMG_0412Ingredients to serve a party of 4 to 8: 

  • 8 chicken wings (approximately 2 lb.) Thawed. Can be substituted with 2 lb. of legs and/or thighs
  •  9 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  •  12 oz. Daikon cut to bite size chunks
  • 10-12 oz. Whole onion, chopped
  • 5 oz. Carrots, sliced
  • 4 oz. Celery Heart (approx. 3 stalks)
  • 2 oz. Ginger, 1/8” to 1/4” slices for flavoring
  • 1 cup scallion or cilantro, chopped
  • 8 cups of cooked rice

Preparing the chicken:
Boil 12 cups of water. Place the thawed chicken pieces into the boiling water. Bring back to boil and immediately remove from heat. Let stand in pot for 12 hours or overnight. Drain and gently rinse the chicken under running water. Pluck excess feather where necessary. Chicken is ready to use.

Note: The purpose of this prepping process is to remove excess chicken fat and blood, which results to a healthier, leaner and a more aesthetically pleasing ingredient. We recommend using the prepared chicken immediately or to refrigerate and use it within one day.

Making the Soup:
In a large pot, combine chicken with water, ginger, vinegar, onion, celery, carrots and daikon. With high heat, cover and bring to boil. Leaving the pot covered, simmer in low heat for another 15 minutes while skim excess oil from surface. Remove from heat and serve.

Serving Suggestions:
1 cup of cooked rice is the recommended serving size per person. To serve the soup, place one chicken piece in each rice filled bowl before scooping in other ingredients. Pour soup over rice. Garnish with scallions or cilantro and serve.

Note: The picture above shows 2 servings of the soup made with chicken wings and garnished with scallions.

Taiwan and its Cuisine

During Christmas party, a newly wed couple told me about their upcoming foodie adventure to experience soup dumplings in Chinatown. Besides giving them some of my recommendations, this topic has lit my creative fire… I went on to tell them about Taiwan, where I came from… I said,

“If you want good Chinese food, go to Taiwan… Once you are there, you could eat your way–north to south, top to bottom–no kidding! Because… ”

I then briefly told the history of Taiwan and why such a small island about the size of New Jersey has a variety of Chinese cuisine. Later, as I reminisce the conversation, I decided to write it down and craft it better, here:

Between 1895 and 1945, Taiwan was ruled by the Empirial Japan. The Japanese built infrastructure and economy in Taiwan, to setup foundation for its intended expansion plan. At the time, native Taiwanese were deemed as savages and slaves by the Japanese. They had to learn the Japanese culture and traditions in order to survive.

At the end of Sino-Japan War in 1945, Japan surrendered Taiwan to the ROC (The Republic of China,) ruled by the KMT Party (Kuo Ming Tang.) When the Communist Mao took over KMT-ruled China, KMT exiled and settled in Taiwan. The KMT people, composed of mostly educated and talented aristocrats from all over Mainland, brought with them their knowledge, culture and traditions. They set up businesses over the Japanese infrastructure; shops, restaurants, spawned all over Taiwan…

Today, Taiwan has become a great cultural hub, that incompasses a variety of Chinese cuisines, music, arts and crafts, with occasional Japanese flare. People there are friendly and welcoming. In my childhood memories, I always recall seeing one or two westerners walking down the streets of Taipei City, with smiles on their faces… Because we smile at them.


Here is my favorite Taiwan tourism video on YouTube:


A Story of a Jade Bangle

Every piece of jade is unique. The Chinese believe that jade have their own spiritual callings. With an artisan’s crafty hands, the beauty and characteristics of a piece of authentic jade can be revealed. A piece of jade jewelry, made especially to be worn by humans, are not to be pursued. Due to its own spiritual calling, it would make its way to its destined owner.

Mother acquired the jade many years prior to moving to California in the spring of 2005. Before she moved, I went to her house often, helping her pack the house and accept whatever she didn’t want to move with her.

During one of those days, with her house full of cardboard boxes everywhere, she came to me and said, “This, I bought for you…” as she held up in front of me a bright red satin silk pouch. She unbuckled the brass snap button of the red pouch, adorned with golden threaded embroidery… A circular ring of pale green slid out and emerged in front of my eyes…

I recognized it’s a jade. It looked commonplace under the light. I appreciated her gesture, and knowing I wouldn’t see her often soon, I wanted to put it on right there and then. The unforgiving stone didn’t budge my big stiff hand… It was painful!

Mother saw the struggle, smiled and said, “It’s not time yet… Just keep it.” She put the bangle back into the pouch and handed it to me.

Years gone by. I started a creative and design business. Recession came. Time was tough and life was hard. Constently tried to reinvent and get by… I thought of Mother often–Her ways, her cooking, her words of wisdom…

One day I went through my drawers and rediscovered the red satin silk pouch. I couldn’t remember what it was until I felt the 2.5″ ring it contained. I opened the pouch and recalled the moment when Mother presented this. I held the bangle against the light and discovered the never before seen complexity within this simple ring of pale green, composed of smoky beige clouds and little dark green clusters of veins scattered throughout inside this perfectly round, crafted and polished wrist bangle.

I felt comfortable with it. It’s not stunning, not impressive. It didn’t look expensive. But it has its subtle and natural beauty that is honestly what it is… It made me feel close to home… Close to Mother…

Holding it with my right hand, without much thought, I gathered my left hand fingertips and put it through the bangle. I naturally slid it toward the wrist, slowly… Then, without really knowing what I was doing, the jade made it past my knuckles and landed on my wrist in no time… Without any pain.

Suddenly I realized that I was wearing it. “Oh no, can I take it of?” I thought, and tried to pull it out. But it was stuck! I was experiencing the same pain and struggle I felt when I tried to put it on the first time… Now it’s not letting me taking it off!

I’ve been living with the jade bangle ever since. In the beginning, it took me some time to adjust to the clunky noise it would make, every time I rest my left hand on a hard surface. But, as I hear the subtle banging noise, it’d always remind me of Mother, as if she was here with me — Because she wears a jade bangle too, and it’s the same noise she would make.

Day after day, the warm thought of Mother helped me I grow very comfortable with the jade. The noise has become a part of my life. The jade itself has become a part of me, my being, and an inspiration of Mother’s wisdom.

Trigger… Effect… Results.

[This is the second publish of my Facebook Note, originally written and published in March 5, 2010]

Recently we received a link of a music video from a friend of ours. It’s really cool! We favored it on our YouTube channel. After watching this video I can’t help but remembering back in the early 90’s, while I was only a freshman at Cooper, during a 3D Design class, we had an assignment to design an installation to move an object without using hands. My solution to this assignment had become a process to turn a fresh pineapple into a canned pineapple… without the expense of a factory. 🙂 So my friend Victor, who was my partner for this assignment, and I together built something very simple, trying to achieve the schematic in the picture below. It sort of worked–We needed more time to plan and design the perfect mechanism… But let’s get real: it was only a college assignment with limited time and resources. (Classmates: remember this one?)

Rough sketch of one of my projects in 3DD @ Cooper, freshman year

The grand meaning behind this small project was a sarcastic expression of protesting against the food industry in the United States–Where every natural thing turned into processed canned goods… As for the execution– Was I inspired by Rube Goldberg? Maybe… I can’t say that for sure. But I can say this: At the time, while commuting to NYC daily to school, I walked pass a sculpted public art in the Port Authority terminal, which gave me the inspiration. Also at the time, I only lived in the U.S. for about 6 years, still in the cultural shock, so I really didn’t know who Rube Goldberg was. :-[

In 2003. Honda produced a multi-award winning commercial: The Cog. That was so satisfying to watch… Simply amazing! That was one of the most expensive commercial to make. I heard it took something like 150 takes to get it right version… Yikes!

Maybe one of these days, I’ll really fully execute the idea that I had back in 1991. (Dream on!) 😛

Full-on Production for the Real World Las Vegas

In the past, our MTV client had been OK with our unusual creative graphic solutions that complimented the stories of his reality series. We would research for graphics and imagery that were meaningful to the location and/or the series stories, build animations with those elements in 2D and/or 3D. For the headshots, we would usually get original photographs from the people to introduce the casts in the opening…

But recently, we were told to design the graphic packaging within the MTV brand, setup by the in-house design department, which required original footage, and pretty much banned all computer generated graphics, and required the content/show footage be the dominant element in the graphic packaging… Which meant we couldn’t do it with the same design process as before. The only time the production would utilize graphics would be in the end title…

Here’s an excerpt from MTV On-Air Show Packaging Style Guide: “…select powerful, meaningful…images and build a strong graphic language using well-designed typography that elevates the content and conveys the story… All design decisions should…avoid the graphic gymnastics and 3D renderings of the past…”

In order to be compliant to our client’s brand, we were required to produce original material… This project was an unprecedented production process for us, but we welcomed the challenge. With our graphic design background, we designed the end title/logo with a twist of Hard Rock Hotel, where the casts lived while in Vegas. We shot original footage of the Vegas neon lights, cast headshots and time-lapse of the stage being built.

During the time-lapse shoot, we had 2 photographers, one shot the floor scenes and the other sat in the cat walk, taking the overhead shots. We tried to shoot the stage in an angle similar to the jib camera that begins the show, which would enable our opening graphic to work seamlessly into the host’s introduction… But we could only shoot from the cat walk, which was at the left side of the stage. So we centered the shots on the blue circle, and the result was not too bad.

The time lapse and the neon lights were our favorite part of our production process. In the end, we think it all came out alright.

For this season’s “The S#!% They Should’ve Shown” special, which premiered the week after the “Reunion” premiered, we showed, in the opening sequence, primarily the unseen footage they were going to talk about. For transitional and title parts of the sequence, we used the franchised keyhole/eyeball graphic and the Vegas neon footage that we shot. So the creative end of this piece was more straight forward compared to the “Reunion” opening. We did, however, add production value by composite the Vegas neon footage into an HD grid using a simple element of repetition and time-offset effect. These neon light footage, thus became beautiful, abstract, animated patterns that juxtaposed the circular symmetric and concentric iris theme.

“The Real World Las Vegas Reunion” premiered on June 8, and “The S#!% They Should’ve Shown” premiered on June 15.

Capitolism and Exploitation of Labor

The nature of capitalism is to exploit. The Internet provides the perfect pipeline to enable exploitation to the extreme. Capitolism exploits artists egos and the Internet has done a fine job to facilitate the act… A.k.a. Crowdsourcing.

As a proud supporter of public radio, it really hurts to hear my favorite radio station, WNYC, exploited graphic designers by soliciting free work to fill their content of Map Your Move Data Visualization project. Their reward for the submitting artists: Dedicating 30 minutes of airtime interviewing the best 5 on the air…

Is that enough? Promotion never guarantees future profits and/or advancement of career.

Is it worth spending 50 hours of your time to do work for free?

They put you on the air for average 6 minutes per person–You are suddenly famous. You feel great because they fed your ego…

Does your bank need to be fed?
Does your ego bring food to the table?


ID this!

Recently I started to draw a family tree, of both sides of my parents, trying to make sense of who is who in my family. Then I suddenly realized: I have cousins whom I haven’t spoken to or seen in more than 20 years!

So, prior to my annual trip to California, I had a mission: To visit as many relatives in California as I can and to collect as many family stories as possible.

With an open mind, not only would I catch up with everyone with their life and career, I would try to uncover their stories that they usually don’t share with a stranger… (Hey I’m family!) And, of course, this was a chance to be a spectator to look into these relatives lives like I have never done before.

After more than 10 years being “conditioned” by Bob, my husband–the ultimate opposite of me–I was lost for a while. Internally struggling to be a better person for many years, at times I would drive myself crazy because I could never be good enough! This is another reason why I decided to venture out to visit distant family relatives, to search my soul and reclaim my identity.

As a result, I discovered many things-good, bad, and dysfunctional-and it’s OK! I was extremely enlightened from this trip. I’ve become more accepting and have come to a deeper understanding of why and how I am who I am… A certain way––

Because it’s all in my blood. 🙂