Minnow Park

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Crazy Asian Americans

I saw Crazy Rich Asians this morning with Becky. What a great movie. I’m starting to enjoy romantic comedies (watching Love Actually again last week seems to have started this trend). I found myself getting sucked into the story, getting emotional, laughing, and either rooting for or hating on different characters.

What I didn’t find myself doing though was making excuses for the movie. Not once did I think, “this is good for an Asian movie.” It was just a good movie. When I watched Ali Wong’s comedy special, or read Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko I felt the same thing. I genuinely enjoyed the work, Asian or not.

Not that there hasn’t been great work for years and generations before. I know that just because I came to this realization these past few months, it doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been great work done by Asian Americans.  But I’m curious and eager to see how we as Asian Americans find our story and place here. And I’m glad to be a witness to what is happening now.

EssaysMinnow Park
The Birth of a Project

This project has been rattling inside my head for a while. A nagging, haunting idea that didn’t want me to forget that it was worthwhile. There’s been countless nuggets of half-formed thoughts that I jotted down, trying to find a thread of insight. The first drafts of this were rambling sentences that didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t until actually doing the interviews and photoshoots that it started to come together.

This is my latest draft and pitch of a project that I hope to work on for a long time. I gave this project its own section so that I can document and share how the project is going.

Growing up in an Asian home, I lived with a deep, constant tension that pulled me in multiple directions.

One side pulled me to conform, to be in harmony with the traditions and standards that my people have upheld through war and sacrifice. But as an American, there’s a pull to be seen, heard, and accepted for who I am. I am a special person, and I don’t want to be categorized or limited in who I can be.

I remember long and intense conversations with my parents about why I didn’t fit into their safe molds. I didn’t want art to just be a hobby. I wanted to be free to be. But I also remember feeling different, left out, singled out. Even as the model minority, I thought I could never measure up to the majority.

I felt deep gratitude for how much my parents sacrificed for my brother and I. My dad has worked 70 hour weeks for most of my life. But also wanted to take full advantage of the opportunities I was given without their input and nagging. Because what do they know? They weren’t born here.

It’s only in hindsight I can see that this experience has made me a deeper person. As I continue to pull from all sides, I am the better for it.

Every Asian American has their own version of this story. The contours of how all this plays out is universal. Whether you’re an artist, doctor, lawyer, chef, banker, athlete, influencer, the lives we lead strive to be all American. But the way we got here, the way we have managed and reconciled the expectations of being Asian is a unique story. One that is still being discovered.

This project is to aid in that discovery. To find those opportunities where we can learn and empathize with one another. We are taught early on to “save face,” not do anything to stand out. But if we can be vulnerable and true with one another, it’s the way for us to be accepted.

EssaysMinnow Park
New York City in 1911→

"Old film of New York City in the year 1911. Print has survived in mint condition. Slowed down footage to a natural rate and added in sound for ambiance. This film was taken by the Swedish company Svenska Biografteatern on a trip to America."

Man, the way they dressed, the way the city looked. This was over 100 years ago, it it's so familiar. I love how the cars are driving around the horse and carriage. That was probably the road rage of the day.

Dropbox Paper→

They did an amazing job with this product. Forgot how I even came across it, but it's changed the way I am collaborating and sharing things online. Sorry to say, but Google Docs feels outdated and heavy compared to this.

Jeff Sheldon from Ugmonk serendipitously put up a screencast about how he uses it, and that sealed the deal for me.

The Opioid Diaries →
james-nachtwey-opioid-addiction-america-1.jpg
Photography can cut through abstractions and rhetoric to help us understand complex issues on a human level. Never is photography more essential than in moments of crisis. To witness people suffering is difficult. To make a photograph of that suffering is even harder. The challenge is to remain open to very powerful emotions and, rather than shutting down, channel them into the images. It is crucial to see with a sense of compassion and to comprehend that just because people are suffering does not mean they lack dignity.
— James Nacthwey
"Uh Huh" →
If I’m really stuck on a scene/beat, call up my editor and talk it out. Editors are awesome. Sometimes they just nod and say “uh huh” and let me blab until I work it out. Sometimes they ask just the right questions. These calls ALWAYS help.
— Greg Pak
Why “I Don't” Works Better Than “I Can't” →
Your words help to frame your sense of empowerment and control. Furthermore, the words that you use create a feedback loop in your brain that impacts your future behaviors.

For example, every time you tell yourself “I can’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that is a reminder of your limitations. This terminology indicates that you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do.

In comparison, when you tell yourself “I don’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that reminds you of your control and power over the situation. It’s a phrase that can propel you towards breaking your bad habits and following your good ones.

...the phrase “I don’t” is a psychologically empowering way to say no, while the phrase “I can’t” is a psychologically draining way to say no.
— James Clear
LinksMinnow Park
Pencils, Photography, and Words →

The two are made for each other, like a couple married for 50+ years. This recent story in New York Times Magazine is a great example of such a union. It put a smile on my face the whole way through. 

Photo by Christopher Payne

Photo by Christopher Payne

That image could have been a clip in a video, but having it frozen in time with great composition, and the flattering light. I stared at that image much longer than a video would allow me to look.

Red pencils wait, in orderly grids, to be dipped into bright blue paint. A worker named Maria matches the color of her shirt and nail polish to the shade of the pastel cores being manufactured each week. One of the company’s signature products, white pastels, have to be made in a dedicated machine, separated from every other color. At the tipping machine, a whirlpool of pink erasers twists, supervised patiently by a woman wearing a bindi.
— Sam Anderson

And this is what great writing can do. It gives life and an insight to the world of this pencil factory that an image can't fully capture. Maria matches her shirt and nail polish to the pencil color being made that week. I mean, how charming is that? 

I have nothing against video. My greatest inspirations comes from film, but what I have at my disposal right now is a camera and a pencil. With everything going to video and everyone raving about video, I feel as if I'm convincing myself that what I have is valuable. But features like this that are masterfully done inspires and delights me to no end.

Never Enough

I recently found a pattern in how I started and ended each year. Each year started with me asking myself: “could I pull this off again this year? Do I have enough to make it to the end?” The year would go on and it would be full of great clients and projects, but as December approached the same question would come up again and crisis would ensue. I thought it was the price you pay of being a freelancer, but that’s not true. It was because of a mindset I chose to embrace; a mindset of scarcity. 

I couldn’t look ahead farther than a year, because I was busy just trying to survive. I would dream of these big goals and projects that would take years, if not decades to achieve. Yet I never made time to actually make a plan and create systems to accomplish them. Who has time to do that when you don’t have a steady paycheck?

The antidote to this isn’t to get more resources, because the poison is from within not without. It’s a mindset that makes me think I don’t have enough.

paris hotel taylor

This is a photo of my wife and I from September getting ready to spend another day walking around Paris. It’s a reminder to me that no one who is just “barely surviving” is able to get such an amazing opportunity. It’s a blessing to do what I do and it’s a responsibility to do the most I can with what I have been given.

If you want to face scarcity mindset head on with some people who battle it and overcome it everyday, listen to this podcast episode by Sean McCabe