Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pixar Is Going Up Arthur Hu May 27, 2009 Hu’s On First

Pixar is Moving Up

Russell and Carl

I love Pixar, but they must have finally noticed my annual complaints in all its diversity, they have never before cast any Asian characters. In Cars, they cast Cheech, but passed over hippie Tommy Chong. Ratatouille’s Collette looked Asian, but wasn’t cast that way. While a couple of mainstream papers such as USA Today noticed, you’d think Pixar was trying to keep it a secret that Wilderness Explorer Russell who keeps the grumpy old man company in his flying house is as Asian American kid. Though his accent is American, he’s got those almond eyes and straight black hair.

Jordan Nagai is a Japanese American, which would make him a sansei plus a couple of generations. Hollywood has given us cute Asian child sidekicks before. Future Hawaii first lady Vicky Tiu was teamed with Elvis in It Happened At The World’s Fair in 1962, while Jonathan Ke Quan clung to Indian Jones as Short Round in the Temple of Doom.

On the Pixar Blog, one commenter mentioned that person from Pixar told him they were looking for an Asian child, though 400 kids showed up for the auditions. At seven, Jordan got the part after he was spotted as that kid who would not stop talking. While it’s certainly not necessary to cast an overachieving scout as an Asian, it’s nice when it is so common to cast non-Asians to speak Asian parts.

Jordan Nagai and Russell

Photo by Jesse Grant - ©

Viki Tiu and Elvis

Short Round

Geek Chic

When Jordan grows up, will he play another cool geek? Grant Imahara of Mythbusters, and Masi Oka from Heros and Get Smart are both pretty popular now. Even in the new Fast & Furious, gopher Agent Sophie Trinh in a modest pantsuit by Liza Lapria got more screen time than any number of women shaking their booties and Asian guy heros / villains.

Liza Lapria


I loved ADAM 12, so NBC’s Southland looks interesting. But how can they get away with zero Asian parts when there are more Asians than African Americans in Los Angeles? Asians could have been cast as the detective, the honor student shooting victim, the gang bangers, the pedophile murderer, the bus driver, or the scared witnesses. How about drawing from some real history with Korean grocers shooting at kids, committing home invasions against other Asians, or even angry geeks who shoot up immigration classes or colleges?

Gran Torino: Do the White Thing

Walter Mans Up Thao

Ford Gran Torino drawing I did at age 13. That was a COOL car.

Maybe it’s not surprising that a movie starring Clint Eastwood was snubbed at the Academy Awards when it was about Asian gangs and racist Walter Kowalski who will point an M-1 rifle in your face and tell how he stacked dead Koreans like sandbags. Sue Lor (played by Ahney Her) tells adopted uncle Walter “Hmong are a people, not a place”, and “we send our girls to college, our boys to jail” But as an Asian, I see a reverse Kung Fu Kid story. To his Hmong neighbors, Walter represents the exotic culture of white guys who can fix anything with a slip wrench, WD-40 and duct tape. He demonstrates how to properly use ethnic insults as an informal communications style. He “mans up” his young Jedi apprentice Thao played by Bee Vang to ask out the girl and stand up to gangs. The Hmong witch doctor can see right through him while his own young Catholic priest is a joke. In the end, Wally sacrifices himself in a Christ-like pose to save his newly adopted Hmong extended family who treat him as a savior, though he is spurned by his own spoiled children. The boy carries on Walter’s legacy by driving the prized 1972 Gran Torino and Walter’s dog as he drives off past lakeshore. If you can step past political correctness, it’s a tribute to the movie’s quality that it is still playing in some theaters, but watch out for the DVD this summer.

For video Interview click on

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Seattle Weekly Nails Pacific NW Tech Interview Style

I love this one, if you've never gone through a Seattle style tech interview, Seattle Weekly pretty much nailed it this week.

I've been doing these ever since I personally interviewed with Bill Gates and Paul Allen when they interviewed every programmer at Microsoft, and then Steve Ballmer when he interviewed everybody. (Unfortunately, I was never quite "right" enough to actually get in as a full timer, though I've done a few contracts there since). If you do these, don't get discouraged, sometimes you'll need to do a few before landing a job.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,
I'm a tech guy who recently had a job interview with a large online retailer. The usual crew was tag-teaming me—first the ass-kissy HR lady, followed by a dev who expressed his dominance by making me do problems on the white board, a sweaty-palmed project manager, and a half-dozen other bozos. The last one was evidently their specialist in "out of the box" questions. "How would you count all the windows in Boston?"—that kind of thing. At one point he held up a red pen and said, "This is a black pen." You seem to consider yourself something of a specialist in out-of-the-boxness yourself, so maybe you'll know what I should have done in this situation.Tup Tech Tim
Dear Tim,
According to what I've heard, where job interviewers once may have seen themselves as lords and dukes, the current economy has elevated their self-image to something more like Zen masters and Jedi Knights. In his mind, out-of-the-box guy levitates cross-legged above you, his lips twitching slightly as he holds back an ironic smile. He believes your position is so debased that you'll surely tremble at the slightest rustling of his robes.
The right response might be to focus on the only person you can control here: You. Maybe this is an opportunity to set aside the disdain for other people so evident in your letter. To rest the spiritual muscles that now strain under the burden of this disdain. To feel the rejuvenating power of selflessness flow through your veins. Start by admitting to this purveyor of koans that his mastery of paradox is far greater than yours will ever be, and that you hope you get the job just so you can become his mentee.
Of course, maybe you'll find that the price of your dignity isn't subject to decline after all. In that case, I suggest you point a finger pistol at him, say "This is not a squirt gun filled with my urine," and pull the trigger.