FROM Frank Shyong
Identity in design: is Yamashiro kitsch or cultural appropriation? If you live in LA, you’ve likely heard of Yamashiro, the faux Japanese temple built into the chaparral-covered Hollywood hills. But this location -- to many visitors an innocent and charming example of LA’s love of stage set architecture -- did not play so well with Los Angeles Times reporter Frank Shyong. He tells DnA, “the temple is -- in the Japanese context -- a place where people think about their relatives and have quiet reflective moments. And so when we in America take these parts of these cultures, we should also think about what their contexts were.” Shyong recently published a fascinating meditation on the “authenticity” of Yamashiro, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. He asked whether it should be considered within the framework of “cultural appropriation” and he called it, quote, “an inauthentic fantasy of Japanese culture that has generated profits exclusively for non-Japanese people.” He added that longtime businesses in Little Tokyo meanwhile face displacement. As part of DnA’s series on identity in design we discussed these arguments -- with Frank Shyong; Eve Epstein, Hunker VP of Content; and Eric Avila, historian and professor at UCLA. We asked each of them, how should we evaluate objects and buildings that mean different things to different viewers? Epstein says she feels a personal connection to the hybrid building, due to her own heritage as child of a Japanese mother and Jewish-American father. On one hand she says she understands the concerns of cultural appropriation, whether in architecture, fashion or movie casting; on the other she says there is room for “camp” and for keeping a sense of humor when appropriate. “The truth is that America is always interpreting somebody else's thing. We were bound to be getting stuff wrong from the start.” She adds, “I don't think there's anybody who comes to Yamashiro and doesn't come away having a pretty good feeling about Japanese architecture and culture.” But should the National Register reflect the hidden, sometimes darker aspects to a building? Yes, says Avila, and points out that at the time Yamashiro was being built, “Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants were facing a wave of hostility that surfaced through a variety of laws that were passed to restrict Japanese immigration and also to prohibit land ownership among Japanese people in California.” Shyong suggests preservationists could focus on ethnic communities as well as ersatz ethnic buildings. How about paying more attention, he asks, to buildings such as “the 100 year old French hospital that was Chinatown's only hospital” and has a “fascinating history of transitioning from French to Chinese to pan-Asian as Chinatown and that surrounding area has changed?” Or what about the restaurant in Chinatown where “the first dim sum was served? I think if we considered Asian American or Chinese American food history a part of our history, then that’s something worth preserving too.” A view of Yamashiro’s interior courtyard. Photo by Frances Anderton.
The City of Industry's First Council Election in 17 Years The City of Industry runs along the 10 Freeway in the San Gabriel Valley. Between 1962 and 1994, it held just one local election — with all others cancelled due to a lack of competition. Tomorrow, Industry will go to the polls for the first in 17 years -- with 125 registered voters. No less than 10 percent of them have the same name as former Mayor David Perez, who's been accused of corruption. Frank Shyong reports for the LA Times .
Is Southern California's Most Famous Hot Sauce Moving Out? After months of complaints about what might be called ‘excessively pungent' odors, the Irwindale City Council was unanimous last week in declaring the Hoy Fong factory that makes Sriracha sauce a public nuisance. That gives the city the power to walk in and install smell-mitigation technology if Hoy Fong doesn't in 90 days. David Tran, Sriracha's creator, says that means he just might move his operation out of Irwindale. Frank Shyong is reporting the story for the LA Times .
What happens when America retreats from the world? Is President Trump taking his "America First" agenda to extremes, withdrawing the country from the international stage on trade and climate change, distancing America from its traditional allies across the Atlantic and even threatening to physically isolate the country through the building of a wall along its southern border? León Krauze guest hosts.
White House budget proposal slashes and burns President Trump's first budget request is considered dead on arrival in Congress — a familiar development in Capitol Hill. We hear what it reveals about the priorities of the new administration. What's likely to die… and what might survive?
The longest US war: Will Trump send more troops to Afghanistan? The Trump White House is divided over the Pentagon's request for more troops in Afghanistan—where the US has been fighting for the past 16 years. Is there a formula -- either for "victory" or a political settlement? Is there an end in sight for America's longest war?
Will the Senate write a healthcare bill in secret? While Democrats and Republicans argue White House relations with Russia, another question is being decided behind closed doors: who gets help buying health insurance and who doesn't? We hear how the pros and cons are being shrouded in secrecy.