Sunday, October 30, 2005

Desperately Seeking Community Access TV

By law, cable TV franchises must set aside channels for public access. That means anyone with an idea for a TV show can produce and air their programming, for free or a very nominal fee.

Many other cities with thriving, creative, independent TV producers also provide production facilities, reduced-fee rental videocameras, and classes for beginners.

In Tulsa, Cox Cable provides three channels for public access. Channel 19 and 20 are controlled by Tulsa Public Schools. From the Education Service Center, John Hamill oversees a state-of-the-art TV production facility that rivals any commercial studio.

Tulsa Governmment Access TV, TGOV, airs Council meetings, Planning Commission meetings, and other public board meetings.

How do independent producers air their programming? They can get approval from TPS for Channel 19 and 20. City of Tulsa approves programming for TGOV. Local critics charge censorship of diverse programming.

There have been more than several attempts by independent Tulsa producers to air their programming on the public access channels. Beef Baloney Productions attempted to air their 30 minute variety show. Before going out of business, Beef Baloney aired on Channel 71, a fee-required channel for infomercials.

Currently, Living Arts Tulsa, an non-profit arts organization, airs programming on Channel 71. It is the de facto community access TV for Tulsa.

United States of America vs. Me

At age 86, Fred Korematsu died on 31 March 2005. Like Rosa Parks, he challenged the injustice of racial discrimination, was arrested, and finally forced America to apologize for the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Unlike Rosa Parks, he did not receive the honor of lying in state under the US Capitol Rotunda.

Fred grew up in Oakland and worked in his family's nursery. He ate hamburgers and lived a typical American life. He worked as a welder in the shipyard until he lost his job for no reason. He tried to enlist for military service and was refused.

Rumors about "Japs" splashed the headlines in the newspapers. War was brewing. Some restaurants refused to serve Japanese-Americans. In 1942, the U.S. government sent those of Japanese descent to internment camps in the Western desert. Fred didn't want to go because he was an American. We were fighting the Japanese, Germans and Italians, but no German-Americans or Italian-Americans were rounded up.

Fred's family feared his resistance would shame them, but Fred was a true citizen who loved his country. He was being targeted because of the color of his skin and the shape of his eyes. Soon arrested, Fred was sent to Tanforan Race Track where families lived in horse stalls that smelled like manure. He was then sent to Topaz, a camp in the Utah desert. Barbed-wire fences surrounded the innocent prisoners and guards perched on watchtowers armed with machine guns.

After four years in the camps, the Japanese-Americans carried their shame with their silence as they returned home quietly. Homes, farms, businesses and possessions were lost. Fred journeyed to Salt Lake City where he repaired water tanks at an ironworks plant and then worked in Detroit.

He had begun a legal case protesting the internment that progressed all the way to the Supreme Court, but he lost. Fred married and had two children. Like many Japanese-Americans, he didn't discuss the camps over the years. Yet he believed "it may take time to prove you're right, but you have to stick to it. In 1988, almost half a century after the orders were issued, justice prevailed.

Government officials had claimed that the internment was due to "military necessity," but evidence revealed that the order was based on racial prejudice. The government admitted that the Japanese-Americans had posed no risk to homeland security. The court decision led to an apology by the government and reparations for 120,000 living concentration camp survivors. In 1998, President Clinton honored Fred Korematsu with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Clinton said Fred was a man of quiet bravery who only wanted to be treated like every other American.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

In Memoriam

There is an intersection in Tuskegee, Alabama where two roads intersect. One named for Martain Luther King, Jr. and the other for Rosa Parks. Both were arrested. Their non-violent direct actions criminalized.

One was a great orator who moved a nation with the spoken word. The other simply sat down in front of the bus and sparked an inspiration for oppressed minorities everywhere.

Rosa Parks represents the everyman/woman who just got tired, sat down, so the rest of us could stand up for something. Anything.

"One day I was an invalid," Pat Morita recalled in a 1989 interview. "The next day I was public enemy No. 1 being escorted to an internment camp by an FBI agent wearing a piece."

Born on 28 June 1932, Morita started early in life with spinal tuberculosis. He recovered just in time for imprisonment during WWII, because of his ancestry. After the war, his family operated a Sacramento restaurant, where he tried stand-up comedy on the patrons. Without much future in comedy, he worked for Aerojet General, and finally entered show business at 30.

He will be interred at the Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetary. Credits.

Rebirth Of An American Icon

It is no secret the great icon of America's love affair with the automobile, the ubiquitous drive-in, has gone the way of the VCR, single 78's, and the rotary phone. But, in fringe outposts around the country, namely Santa Cruz and Westchester, PA, guerrilla impresarios, film geeks, and unemployed techies with too much time on their hands are trying to revive the drive-in.

The most famous guerilla drive-in hotspot, Santa Cruz, lists a full schedule of summer movies. Not to be outdone, People Power offers the guerilla bike-in to showcase a bicycle film festival.

Budding as a potential movement, guerilla drive-in's seeks to reclaim public spaces and industrial wastelands for showing films. They can be projected anywhere with a large blank wall.

Guerilla drive-ins, or GDI, uses portable DVD players, generators, LCD projectors, and low-power transmitters. The Wechester GDI is low-cost, less than the price of a prosumer videocamera, easily transported, even by bicycles, and very counter-culture chic. It's logo is Che Guevera in 3D glasses. Sweet.

In it's purest form, GDI operators do not ask for permission to display their wares. Some operators do not even bother to secure exhibition rights from copyright holders.

That has rangled both the police and the lawyers. The police get involved when a citizen makes a complaint. Understandably, the lawyers get involved when exhitibion rights are not secured.

According to Michael Bergman, a Los Angeles-based entertainment lawyer, "Projecting a rented DVD onto the side of a building, where anybody who wants to can come and watch it, is certainly a violation of the copyright act."

But, that has not stop the movement, with the potential to provide an alternate venue for indie filmmakers to create that all important buzz. It has not escaped notice by producers and distributors.

A Los Angeles filmmaker, Lawrence Bridges, used guerrilla drive-ins to get around traditional distribution networks. His staff spent a year sneaking onto parking lots and projecting his film against a wall on Saturday nights in Dallas, LA, and New York City.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

School Suspends Girl For Kissing Girl

At Santiago High School, in the Garden Grove, CA School District, Charlene Nguon, 17, is in the top 5 percent of her class with straight A's, and no other prior discipline problems. Instead of falling for the football players, the soft-spoken teenage girl falls for the girl in science class.

According to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, what began with the school officials complaining about the two girls expressing the same affections of other hetero teenagers, ended with Principal Ben Wolf suspening Charlene for the rest of her junior year, making her ineligible for National Honor Society.

The lawsuit, filed September 7, seeks to enjoin the school district to obey California's non-discrimination laws. Charlene says, “We need to teach the administration that they can’t discriminate against people. I feel like the school is doing everything to oppress gay people and make them invisible.”

Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Supergirl Contest

Organizers of the wildly successful talent show, Super Girl, drew both huge ratings and the ire of Beijing trying to put a lid on "unpure" speech in the media and the Internet.

To Beijing sensibilities, the first problem with SuperGirl is the coolness factor. To millions of hip young Chinese, cool means speaking in Hong Kong or Taiwan hua, or speech. The 3,000 or so city, provincial, and regional TV outlets keep up with the kids by slyly incorporating HK or Taiwan talk into their programs. In the big city studios, like Beijing or Shanghai, such speech is completely out of fashion. Don't tell that to the hordes of kids weaned on Taiwan or HK pop.

Then, there's the problem of the winner, Li Yuchun. She does not fit what Beijing usually ascribe to a national idol, the demure girlish doll. Li looks like a boy, with her spiky hair punk style. Maybe something like David Bowie, without the brooding edginess. To add insult to the injury, Li Xiang, the pop girl emcee, spouted HK talk all night long. Oh, my my.

Finally, there's the underlying uneasiness in Beijing of the coronation process. It had the feel of political campaigns of western democracies. People were out on the streets distributing flyers, stumping, and organizing parties for their favorite idol. Millions of text messages were flying all over the countryside plugging candidates.

In spite of huge ratings that put the main sponsor, Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt, way ahead of their competitors in real sales, the organizers denied rumors of the show's demise next year. They claim to be preparing for the next big thing, Super Boy.

Half-Rice, Half-Cracker Review of American Fusion

American Fusion

Yvonne, played by Sylvia Chang, is 49 years old, immigrated from China, and divorced. Doomed to a loveless life with a large, eccentric immigrant family, she falls for a Mex-Am dentist, Jose, played by Esai Morales.

To realize her true love, Yvonne must overcome three demanding siblings, a thousand years of conservative Chinese culture, and one overbearing mother who broke her back in a massage accident.

Good soundtrack on the standard Chi-Am immigrant romantic comedy fare. Accent seems appropriate. Mostly Asian cast and crew with Pat Morita and James Hong as the nostalgia fixtures.

Currently in post.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Half-Rice, Half-Cracker: A Review of Commander-in-Chief

Last night, I perused ABC's Commander-in-Chief for the first time. I wanted to see if a female President could be believeable.

DEA agents are murdered in a South American country known to produce cocaine. Madam President Geena Davis accuses General Strongarm of murder. President Davis directs the Attorney General for legal options. Without legal options, she calls in the military. Madam President chooses a military strike on the cocaine factories and calls for an in-country coup.

The Madam President part was somewhat convincing. The story line was way too contrived for my jaded political tastes. The war on drugs is a sham. Without a more progressive way to reduce the demand beyond just throwing addicts in prison, killing the supply side only enriches the drug lords.

Anyways, enough of my radical politics. There was one Asian speaking role. No Asian extras in the background. Darn. There goes my pay day.

The Asian speaking role goes to Laura, played by Hiro Ambrosino. She has dialogue with Madam President's daughter:

Laura: Hello, Pumpkin. What brings you here?
Amy: I want to show Regal where my mommy works. Could I see her?
Laura: Well, I don't know. Do you have an appointment.

A very minor role. But, probably not a bad pay day, better than the extras at $50 per day.

Surely, Madam President Geena Davis must have heard of General Eric Shinseki, the maverick General who testified in Congress about troop numbers needed to win the peace in Iraq. What did Shinseki get for his now-correct-in-hindsight assessments?

The good General recieved an early retirement, courtesy of Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense. See ya later, alligator. Wouldn't wanna be ya. Don't call us. We'll call you. Maybe. NOT!

Be that as it may, I still think civilian control of the military is a good thing. Enough of politics, already!

Here's the contact address for Geena Davis, who is also an executive producer. Sweet. You can also go to to sound off. Which is where I am going now.

Geena Davis
c/o Creative Artists Agency
9830 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212-1825

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Now Hiring: Chinese Language Teachers

With encouragement from the Chinese and American governments, US schools rush to include Chinese, the world's most spoken tongue.

After 2,400 schools expressed interest, Advanced Placement Chinese classes will be offered in high schools around the country starting next year. Beijing is paying for half the $1.35 million to develop the classes, including Chinese teachers' scholarships and developing curriculums and examinations.

Some parents worry at first about the relevancy and the difficulty of Chinese classes. The Foreign Service Institute, which trains American diplomats, ranks Chinese as one of the four most time-intensive languages to learn. An average English speaker takes 1,320 hours to become proficient in Chinese, compared with 480 hours in French, Spanish or Italian.

The number of Chinese language programs around the country, from elementary school through adult programs, has tripled in 10 years, said Scott McGinnis, an academic adviser at the Defense Language Institute in Washington. "Chinese is strategic in a way that a lot of other languages aren't."

The major obstacle is lack of teachers certified by an American college, a requirement of the No Child Left Behind law. Six states have signed or plan to sign agreements with the Chinese government to import teachers from China and send teachers from the United States to China for training.

Better Qualified Asian Americans For The US Supreme Court

"It is a sad day in America when someone is nominated to the highest court in America based primarily on their friendship with the President," stated Kitty Sankey, President of the Downtown Los Angeles Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.

The Downtown Los Angeles Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League is one of the oldest nonprofit Asian American Civil Rights Group based in Los Angeles, California.

Sankey wants the President to withdraw Harriet Meirs and consider the following persons: United States Federal District Court Judges Robert Takasugi and Ronald Lew of the Central District Court in Los Angeles, Federal Judge Anthony Ishii of the Eastern District Court in Sacramento, Federal Judge Denny Chin of the Southern District Court in New York and Federal Judge Susan Oki Mollway of Hawaii, 9th Circuit Judge Wallace Tashima, California Supreme Court Justices Joyce Kennard and Ming Chen, Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Moon, and Associate Justice Paula Nakayama, Civil Rights Attorney Dale Minami, Elected San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, former California Senior Assistant Attorney General John Sugiyama, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Rose Ochi who also served as Associate Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

OKANG Debt Relief Plan

Joe And His Technicolor Pedicab

Tulsa, OK--Joe Henretty is a quiet, unassuming everyday working man with few words. But, he operates a business more common on the streets of Jakarta, and not usually visited by most Oklahomans. Joe is the owner/operator of Golzern Pedicabs.

In case you have been in America too long, and you think hip is low-cut jeans, pedicabs are human-powered taxis. To those of us who are not used to pungent Asian grocery stores filled with live chickens, pedicabs look like a mad scientist's idea of a lovemobile.

The front end looks like a bicycle. The back end is a love seat bolted onto two wheels.

On any given day, Joe will taxi customers anywhere in Jenks. Jenks is a small suburb of Tulsa, perched precariously close on to the Arkansas River. Normally cruising Jenks' newest attraction, Riverwalk Crossing, Joe will pedicab you to the Jenks' Riverside Airport, Antique Row, and any nursing home you wish to visit within Jenks city limits.

What's the charge? The service is free. Tips are much welcomed. It's hot. The legs turn to noodles after the shift. And, he's got a mortgage too.

Asked why Jenks, Joe replies, "Tulsa is not very friendly to small businesses."


Engineers for the new Tulsa Arena went back to the drawing board recently. Actually, they went to a wind tunnel. Someone forgot to conduct wind tests during the design phase. The construction budget is now $3 million more than the original cost estimates.

Wind tunnel tests showed the original concept for the expansive windows that are the signature of the Arena will not withstand 100 mph winds common during tornado season.