Stony Brook University Screening Recap

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Stony Brook University screening of Autumn Gem

The Spring 2010 Autumn Gem Tour featured 13 screenings in 18 days. Our final stop before returning to the Bay Area was at State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island. Saying goodbye to my relatives in New Jersey, we took an early morning train to New York’s Penn Station. We didn’t head immediately to Long Island, as I had to make a quick jaunt over to the All Things Digital “East Coast Office” in Midtown. The differences between the two cities of Boston and New York were readily apparent as we walked between the towering skyscrapers. Boston had more of an old-time colonial and working class feel to it, whereas New York had a more hustle and bustle, white-collar feel. I can understand how intense a rivalry can develop between these two cities (esp. in sports); the variations here are more apparent than those between Northern California and Southern California cities.

We spent just an hour inside the News Corp. building before leaving to return back to Penn Station for our Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train ride. I didn’t realize the News Corp. building had a subway stop in the basement — convenient! I’m very fortunate that I’m able to work remotely while on tour. We couldn’t have produced Autumn Gem without having the flexibility to work virtually anywhere, be it in China, Las Vegas or the East Coast. My motto is “Have Internet, will travel!”

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Brookdale Community College Screening Recap

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Brookdale Community College

The previous day’s double feature, coupled with the lengthy and hectic travel to get to New Jersey, left us pretty tired. But, we were now on the home stretch and nothing would get in the way of our completing this tour! Fortunately, the next screening at Brookdale Community College was extremely well organized. Linda Wang and her students in the Brookdale Asia Society were very proactive in getting the word out to students and the outside community. We also got great publicity from the World Journal and from my uncle’s friends and colleagues. As a result of their efforts, we saw a large crowd of about 120-130 people at the screening. Asia Society even brought a popcorn maker, which brought an authentic movie viewing experience to the evening!

The night kicked off with an overview of Chinese history during the time of Qiu Jin by Michelle, a member of Brookdale Asia Society. This helped set the stage for our film, which was shown on dual projector screens in the room.

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Montclair State University

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Autumn Gem at Montclair State University

A short while after our first East Coast tour, we got an email from Montclair State University asking us if we would like to screen the film. It was this email and screening around which we scheduled our Spring 2010 tour. By locking in the date early on, we were able to plan all the stops before and after. For instance, knowing that we didn’t have to be in New Jersey until the sixth of April, we were able to schedule the Southwest and Maryland/Massachusetts portions of the tour. There’s a saying about beginning with the end in mind, and we followed that to a hilt!

After lunch at Kean University, Rae and I hopped back into our rental car and drove further up the highway to Montclair. As with the past few days, the weather was unusually warm for this time of year on the East Coast, and we saw many people wearing what amounted to summer clothes. On the day we left to return home to the Bay Area, the weather suddenly went from 80 degrees to 50-60 degrees! I doubt many of them are wearing t-shirts and shorts now!

Before the screening, Professor Roberta Friedman told us that we would be interviewed at the DuMont Television Station. We felt like television or movie stars while sitting in the studio, which had an uncanny resemblance to a talk show set. I wish we had a setup like this when we were filming our interior scenes! As we stated in our presentation, we built a set in our garage for the film. Because space was so cramped inside the garage, we could only film from the garage-door side. To get around this limitation, we rearranged the furniture and hung up different scroll paintings on the walls. And ta da! We had a “different” room! It would have been a whole lot better, however, if we had access to a setup like in DuMont!

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Kean University Screening Recap

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Autumn Gem at Kean University

Tuesday was a double feature day, with two screenings at Kean University and Montclair State University in New Jersey. We started our journey right after our screening at Wellesley College in MA. Professor Joseph drove us to the train station where we took the MBTA back to Boston’s South Station. We had several hours to burn, since our Megabus to New York’s Penn Station wouldn’t depart until midnight! For several hours, we sat away in the bus terminal next to some power outlets. I charged up all of my devices while using my iPad which I hid in behind a newspaper. No need to attract any would-be thieves late at night!

While sitting in the waiting area for our bus to arrive, we had a great conversation about fate and destiny with Fay, a lawyer who was returning to Boston after a day trip in NY. Maybe I’ve watched Terminator 2 a little too much, but to a degree, I believe that fate is something that you make for yourself. How you react to particular situations and life experiences is entirely up to you. You can be a boat floating down in the stream of life, or you can grab a paddle and start steering your own path!

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Wellesley College Screening Recap

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Rae walks to the Student Center at Wellesley College

Following the screening at the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association, we got a ride from Phoebe and Shaw over to Wellesley College. It was late when we arrived, but a key was waiting for us at the front desk. We were pretty tired after the screening in Newton, so Rae and I called it an early night. In the morning, I woke up before Rae to walk around Lake Waban. Armed with my EVDO modem, I got caught up with some work while overlooking the beautiful lake. We were really fortunate to have such great weather on this trip. We were joking to people that we brought California’s weather to the East Coast, and that the typical cold weather was on the other side of the country!

After checking out of the hotel at 11:00, we strolled around the campus for a little bit, taking various photos of each other with the iPad. Yes, I really think this device is going to change the way how many people around the world are going to use computers. The first computer that I recall using was the Apple ][ back in the early 80’s. For children growing up today, I can easily see the iPad becoming their first computer. I marvel at how quickly children can pick up an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad and within minutes know how to interact with the device. It sure beats typing “catalog” to get a directory listing in ProDOS!

Coming out of high school, I really wanted to go to college on the East Coast. Fate had it that I went to Stanford instead, but I sometimes wonder how things would have turned out had I went back east. I have always loved the architecture of the East Coast campuses like Princeton and Harvard. The ivy covered buildings and cobblestone walkways make me feel smarter just by walking around! At Wellesley there were a mix of old and new buildings. For instance, the Lulu Chow Wang Student Center was a built just a few years ago. The modern style of the building contrasted with the older brick and stone buildings on campus — which reminded both of us of the Lego castle sets we played with growing up. Inside, I really liked the asymmetrical walls, how the light came in from everywhere and the funky chairs and sofas. Rae and I got a snack to eat, took some more iPad photos and even mailed some clothes and documents back to our home in the Bay Area!

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Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association Screening Recap

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Autumn Gem at the GBCCA

After a great few days in Cambridge and Boston staying, we left Joe’s apartment to go to the suburbs of Boston for our screening at the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association. GBCCA member Betty Chao and her husband picked us up from Joe’s apartment to drive over to West Newton, MA.

One of the benefits of having done this film is that we have been able to bridge the generational gap between our parents and us. Growing up as Chinese Americans, we never heard about Qiu Jin. On the other hand, most people in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, including our parents, learned about Qiu Jin when they were in school. By doing this film, we are at once reconnecting with our parents’ generation as well as helping them reconnect with their own past. Many of them remember admiring Qiu Jin when they were young, and watching the film helped bring back those memories. This is no doubt a critical reason why the older generation has reacted so positively to our film. They are very happy to see second-generation Chinese Americans learning and sharing the stories from their native country.

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