Tag Archives: The Slants

The Slants: Their Trademark Saga Continues

The Slants, The Slants trademark

It was nice to get an update from Simon of The Slants on their trademark filing. He’s the one in front.

This is Simon with The Slants. I just wanted to take a moment to give you an update on what’s been happening with our trademark filing.

First, I wanted to thank you again for your willingness to help in this matter. I can’t tell you enough how much this means to me as an Asian American who is fighting for equal rights. It’s been nearly two years but we are still continuing the fight. As I go through the Trademark Office’s records once more, it’s interesting to see that of the 50 trademark applications containing the term “slant,” ours is still the only one that they’ve raised the issue of it being a racial slur (every other applicant who was not of Asian descent experienced no questions or doubt at all).

In our most recent appeal, we sent over 700 pages of evidence. From expert testimony showing the history/use of the word to a national survey of Asian Americans, letters of support from respected API activists, support from API media, and much more, it was an unbelievable collection that reflected thousands of hours of work. However, the Trademark Office expressed no interest in seriously considering anything from the Asian American community but instead dismissed all of the evidence presented because they believed it would be more politically correct to do so. Because our band is associated with a proud form of Asian American activism, we were struck down.

Since then, we’ve teamed up with a new attorney to assist us. We have reapplied using a different tactic and are working our way through the system again. I believe that we have a long road ahead of us but it’s an important one for the community. Some day, all of us will be able to look back and see how this case contributed to changing history for all minorities who have suffered the inequities of outdated laws.

Thank you again, I hope to send you some good news soon.

Regards,

Simon Tam

 

The Slants are the only all-Asian American dance rock band in the world.

Kicking off the band’s career at a tiny dive bar in Portland, OR, The Slants soon found themselves on tour and in demand worldwide performing at music halls, colleges, and anime conventions. Within months, they released their debut album “Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts” winning multiple awards from the likes of Willamette Week, Rockwired, AsiaXpress, and the Portland Music Awards. Since that first iconic show in 2007, The Slants have been cited as the “Hardest Working Asian American Band” (slanteyefortheroundeye.com), toured North America ten times, rejected a million dollar recording contract, were the first and only Asian band to be a Fender Music artist, and according to U.S Congress, the first rock band to play inside a state library.

The Willamette Week, summarizes The Slants’ history perfectly: “It’s a great story: All-Asian synthcore troupe lands anime festival, achieves instantaneous notoriety from overpacked fireball-laden maelstrom, inspires John Woo and Dragon Ball Z fans toward aggro electro and—just months after its first practice—books gigs across the globe. As shadow-warriory as the Slants’ rise has been, it’s still all about the tunes, and the band’s debut—floor-filling synth pop bristling with all the menace and grandeur of its oft name-checked cultural icons—is propulsive, cinematic and impossible to ignore.”

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Linsanity: Chink In the Armor Fallout

LinSanity ice cream, Linsanity, Jeremy Lin, race and LinsanityYes, there is a new flavor of ice cream named Taste the Lin-Sanity. Does Jeremy Lin get a cut? He should!

The frenzy that is Linsanity has yet to peak and it seems to disregard game by game results by Mr. Lin. Indeed, it’s moved into a new level such that Linsanity has a life of its own. Paramount to this is the question of race, image of Asian Americans of themselves as much as how the rest of the world perceives us, and the bastion of what was always Ebony and Ivory, the NBA. Is it weird to be in year 2012 and have a new hero much like Jackie Robinson was to the sport of baseball or Tiger Woods to golf?

Jeremy Lin is more like Jackie Robinson to me, and the hopes and dreams of Asian Americans seemed pinned to his success. What are our dreams exactly? It can be simply for a young Asian American hapa to make the NBA like my young friend Tom in 4th grade. Finally, he has a role model that he can relate to. It’s also a coolness factor. That Asian American men actually are sexy, strong, and confident despite Madison Avenue messaging that only Asian women are sex symbols.

And what do you think of Chink in the Armor? My friends, the musical group The Slants, are probably chuckling. Our world is now so PC that they — The Slants — an Asian American dance band (and very good, check them out) are denied trademark rights because they dare to denigrate themselves with racial slurs. To be honest, Chink in the Armor is a clever play on words. Very headline worthy. Catchy too. Is it too honest? That people view Lin as a Chink? Do they view him that way or was this just a headline grabber for readership? I would like to think the writer who was fired is not even racist. That’s entirely possible.

There is a whole new huge world out there that is now suddenly interested in basketball who never paused the channel before and it extends beyond the U.S.A. That Lin can engage the Asian community both here and in China is a marketer’s dream. With his squeaky clean image juxtaposed with his on court swagger, this is a new world of media images we’ve never seen before. I think it will start to extend beyond basketball. Maybe there will finally be an Asian Old Spice guy. Maybe Asian actors will be cast beyond doctors and techno geniuses.

What do you think? Did Chink in the Armor bother you or did it just bounce off your armor? Does it bother you that Linsanity is not just about his basketball ability but his race or do you accept that it’s a package deal? Do you think the hype IS caused by race? I’d love to get your opinion!

 

ESPN has swiftly fired the writer responsible for publishing a post about the Knicks Friday loss with title, “Chink In the Armor.” The headline went up at 2:30 am and ran for exactly 35 minutes before it was taken down.

ESPN released the following statement apologizing for the lapse in judgement:

Last night, ESPN.com’s mobile web site posted an offensive headline referencing Jeremy Lin at 2:30 am ET. The headline was removed at 3:05 am ET. We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake.

ESPN anchor Max Bretos has also been suspended for 30 days for asking, “If there is a chink in the armor, where can Lin improve his game?” while on the air. Whoops, shoulda just gone with a simple, “You Lin Some, You Lose Some.”

from Gawker

Some more interesting articles sent by friends. Thanks Tai, Nathalie and Tim!

Linsanity: A Marketer’s Dream from CNN

“From a marketing perspective for the Knicks, Lin’s popularity is proving a boon — last week his No.17 jersey was outselling those of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.”

Is Linsanity Hype Caused by Race? from CNN

“Floyd Mayweather Jr., the famed boxer, caused controversy when he said the other day, ‘Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.'” Lin is the first Chinese-American to not just get on the court but make a major impact in the NBA. That is huge. 

Asian Harvard Grad Somehow Succeeding In New York; Or, Why I Love Jeremy Lin from DeadSpin

“Jeremy Lin, a charming 23-year-old with an economics degree from Harvard College, has somehow become the city’s ultimate underdog and talisman.”

Just Lin, Baby! 10 Lessons Jeremy Lin Can Teach Us Before We Go To Work Monday Morning from Forbes

“The Jeremy Lin story is incredibly popular because we can all see a little bit of ourselves in this man’s struggles and now successes.”

1. Believe in yourself when no one else does.

2. Seize the opportunity when it comes up.

3. Your family will always be there for you, so be there for them. 

4. Find the system that works for your style.

5. Don’t overlook talent that might exist around you today on your team.

6. People will love you for being an original, not trying to be someone else.

7. Stay humble. 

8. When you make others around you look good, they will love you forever.

9. Never forget about the importance of luck or fate in life.

10. Work your butt off.

May we all learn from Jeremy Lin and be better for it.

 

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Asian Americans: Can We Be Bohemian? Nah!

Bohemian Grove JadeLuckClub Can Tiger Mom Moms Parents Asian Americans be Bohemian? Jade Luck Club 

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits.

In this context, Bohemians can be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.

This use of the word bohemian first appeared in the English language in the 19th century to describe the non-traditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artistswritersjournalistsmusicians, and actors in major European cities. Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or anti-establishment political or social viewpoints, which were often expressed through free lovefrugality, and voluntary poverty.

The term Bohemianism emerged in France in the early 19th century when artists and creators began to concentrate in the lower-rent, lower class gypsy neighborhoods. Bohémien was a common term for the Romani people of France, who had reached Western Europe via Bohemia.

 

I had no idea that there was an actual country called Bohemia from which the term Bohemian is derived. In my mind, Bohemian is Haight-Ashbury San Francisco in the 60’s. I’ve had several mom friends recently who described their families as “bohemian.”

“You know,” they’d say, “We’re creatives/counter-culture/Bohemian.”

And it sounded good. You know, non-rule followers. Independents on many levels. Accountable to no one or sort of like that. And I wanted to try it out. We did have some similarities, after all. We all worked from home and had our own businesses. We were at the same schools.

In my head, I rolled it around: “We’re a Bohemian family too…” And it just didn’t work. Not only did it not roll of the tongue, but the image of an Asian American Bohemian was laughable, ridiculous, and even downright embarrassing.

Is it true that Asian Americans can’t be Bohemian?  Even the pop/rock musicians that I’ve tracked down — The Slants and David Choi — exhibit a strong work ethnic that is more Confucianism than Bohemian. There are no Asian American parents that I know of exposing free lovefrugality, and voluntary poverty as a parenting message. Nope, the message that I hear more often is work hard, try harder, be better.

Confucianism Confucius Can Asian Americans be Bohemian? JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club

 Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (Kǒng Fūzǐ, or K’ung-fu-tzu, lit. “Master Kong”, 551–478 BC).

The core of Confucianism is humanism, the belief that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation.

What do you think? Can Asian Americans be Bohemian? Do you know of any? Please share!

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Up Close and Personal with The Slants

The Slants Chinatown Rock Dance Fusion band JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club

I asked Simon a bunch of questions about the members of The Slants (Aron Moxley | Vocals, Simon Young | Bass, Johnny Fontanilla | Guitar, Tyler Chen | Drums) and I was a little nosy but they gracefully complied. Let’s get up close and person with The Slants … I think they are going to be the Next Big Thing!

p.s. Here are other reviews:

Anrgy Asian Man: “Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts kicks some serious ass. They’ve got this throbbing synth-pop/ dance-rock sound with a badass Asian twist. Their vibe recalls bands like Depeche Mode, New Order, Joy Division… and more recently, The Killers… This band knows what it’s doing”

AsiaXpress: “While most new bands require a grace period before being able to produce a cohesive sound, The Slants ‘who formulated their lineup in early 2007’ sound like they’ve been playing together for years. Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts is a rich collection of head-nodding, feet-stomping dance tracks that will attract old and new synthpop fans alike.”

 

1) Tell me about your background (family, ethnicity, where you grew up). Where did you go to college? When did you start learning an instrument? Which one? When did you decide to pursue music as a career? Did anyone of you actually grow up in Chinatown?

Simon (bass): I grew up in San Diego, CA with my Chinese father and Taiwanese mother. Although we didn’t have a formal “Chinatown,” it was certainly in the part of town more multiple Southeast Asian families and businesses congregated. I began studying music at the age of five and started taking formal bass guitar lessons at 10. I knew I wanted to do music before I even learned to talk – my parents have home videos of me jumping on the coffee table with my dad’s guitar and pretending to play/sing. I went to college at University of California, Riverside as a music major but eventually graduated with a degree in business management.

Thai (guitar/keyboards):  I’m Vietnamese, born in Japan, raised in America, grew up in San Diego, CA.  I went to college at UCLA (Go Bruins!).  I started playing piano when I was 5 and playing bass when I was 20.  I never really learned to play the guitar, but don’t tell the Slants that, lol!   I told my mom when I was 5 years old I wanted to be a musician.

Johnny (lead guitar):  My name is Johnny, and I grew up in Southern California. I’m Hispanic on my mothers side and Filipino on my fathers side. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 12. It’s always been a dream to be able to make music a career.

Tyler (drums): I was born in Salem, Oregon, to a multi-racial family (Chinese, German, Swedish, and Irish) and was strongly drawn to music from an early age.  As a child I loved to play my parent’s piano and impressed my parents so much, that they had me start piano lessons at age 4.  I hated the lessons, and would often disappear in the music store, only to be found sitting dreamily in front of a drum set.  I would construct small drum kits at home using oatmeal boxes and chairs, and play them with chopsticks while pretending to perform on stage. Finally, in 5th grade, I got my chance when I was selected to play drums in the school band.  By 7th grade, I was the drummer in the school jazz band and had saved up enough money to buy my own drum set.  I don’t know exactly when I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in music, but it was probably before I knew what “having a career” meant!  I attended an arts magnet high school where I got the opportunity to play with many famous local musicians, and I gained a lot of studio experience recording in the school’s exceptional recording studio.  Due to my interest in recording, I went on to The Evergreen State College to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Audio Engineering.

 

2) How do your parents feel about you being in a rock band? Do you get pressure to get a “real job?” (Can you each please answer this question).

Tyler: My parents have always been really supportive of my “rock star aspirations”!  They know how important it is to me!

Thai: My parents are proud that I’m playing music, and they’re my biggest fans.  I do have a “real job” so there’s no pressure.

Johnny: My parents have always been supportive in the decisions I make. Besides working with The Slants I also work full time managing a Drywall material supply house.

Simon: Unlike the other guys, my parents always hated the idea of me playing in a band. They always wanted me to become a doctor or lawyer so that I would have a secure living and not struggle like they did as an immigrant family. However, after seeing what we’ve done for the Asian American community in this band – delivering workshops on racism, raising money for charity, and advocating for Asian American issues, it was the first time my parents ever said that they were proud of me.

 

3) Is your band a full time job or do you need to do other stuff for $? If so, what do you do? What other jobs have you held?

Thai:  Being in The Slants is a full time job, but I have a day job to help pay the bills and buy fancy suits.  I’m a adjudicator for Social Security Disability.  I’ve also been in advertising sales, computer sales, I’ve worked at a video game store, at a department store, a Baskin Robbins, and I was a DJ at a strip club for a short time.

Johnny: The band feels like a full time job. Unfortunately the gig doesn’t pay all that well.

Tyler: I have a full-time day job for the State of Washington, but I do a lot of freelance web development, graphic design, audio engineering, video production and other media work in addition to being a musician!

Simon: I all of the behind the scenes work for the band so it ends up being a full time job for me (spend about 30-50 hours per week on it), even though none of us are drawing a salary from it. The band basically runs itself and we use the money to continue to tour or record. However, I recently started a company with a friend called En Sinergia Media, a print marketing firm that specifically helps non-profit organizations and communities of color.

 

4) What are your musical influences? Why did you decide to start/join an “Asian Rock Dance Band?”

Simon: My personal musical influences don’t necessarily reflect the kind of music that I wanted to create with The Slants: Ramones, Elvis Costello, Guns n’ Roses, etc. but that’s something that each of us brings to the table. I wanted to start this band to change preconceptions about Asian American culture, to present a bold portrayal of the API experience, and to experience more pan-Asian culture. I wanted to make the music distinctly 80’s influences because the time period reflects what I and others experienced as first generation born Asian Americans…not to mention that the music itself is catchy and has great hooks!

Johnny: I grew up listening to old 70’s punk. I also love David Bowie, T Rex, The Stone Roses, Jesus and The Mary Chain, etc.

Thai:  The Clash, Metallica, Guns N Roses, U2, New Order.   I joined an “Asian Rock Dance Band” because I’d never done something like this before, the tunes are fun to play, and the guys in the band are fun to perform with.

Tyler: Some of my biggest musical influences are bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Tool, Dream Theater, Pantera, The Deftones, Sepultura…I joined The Slants because I loved the music and the energy of the band!  It is contagious!

 

5) Do you feel that your music gets pigeon-holed or is more difficult to discover because you are an “Asian” band?

Thai:  Yes and no.  I think a lot of people aren’t used to the idea of Asians rocking out, but they are receptive to it.   I think sometimes it makes it easier for people to remember us, but I still think that has a lot more to do with us putting on a kick-ass live show and having fun catchy songs than just us being Asian.

Johnny: The music speaks for itself. We may be Asians in a band, but we still play Rock n Roll…

Tyler: I feel that The Slants get pigeon-holed by people until they see us play live.  After seeing a live show, it doesn’t matter who they think we sound like or look like, the live show makes people fall in love with us at a completely different level!

Simon: I think it is more difficult because people automatically have assumptions about the group when they learn we’re an Asian American band. While it more be more difficult to break at an industry level (the general assumption about API’s in the entertainment industry is that we don’t sell and therefore are left in very typecast roles), it is easier for others to remember us simply because there are so few majority or all-Asian acts out there playing this kind of music.

 

6) How will your band “break out” into a bigger demographic? Do you think about this?

Thai:  We’d be silly not to think about this.  You always have to think about how you get more people to hear your music if you want to succeed in this business.  As far as how our band will “break out”, by continuing to put on one of the best live rock shows you’ll ever see, and by having out awesome fans (The Slants Army!) continuing to spread the word.

Johnny: We just need to keep doing what we love. Write good music and go on tour.

Tyler: I’m guessing that a sex tape of one of our band mates and a Kardashian will go viral on the internet and everyone across the country will know about us over night…no, I’m just kidding…honestly, with the music industry in its current state, The Slants are doing a great job of breaking out: gradually with a few fans at a time.  Every time we visit different cities there are more fans at our shows…and we have awesome fans!

Simon: Managing the business affairs, I think about this stuff all the time but I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in just four years. Things like being featured on NPR to getting the front page of the Oregonian or hearing our music on the radio when driving around town…it’s very exciting. As far as breaking out into a bigger demographic, our focus has always been to just stay true to what we have: fans of Asian or Asian American culture and people who like to dance. It just naturally spreads from there. Like the other guys have mentioned, we just need to continue to do what we do and be true to ourselves. We don’t plan publicity stunts or try and be like anyone else because that would simply be disingenuous.

 

7) What is next for The Slants?

Thai:  Recording our next album this fall/winter, finding true love and the perfect sandwich.

Johnny: Writing another album, touring, and recording a unplugged album

Simon: All of the above plus fighting for the right to trademark our name, continuing to perform at anime conventions, and to share the Asian American experience with others.

 

8) How is your trademark going? I understand the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is denying your trademark because your name “The Slants” was a historically term used to insult Asians. How about using the dictionary term for your trademark?

Johnny: We’re still fighting the US Government, but it’s not stopping us from doing what we love.

Simon: Without going into it too much, the U.S Patent and Trademark Office rejected our trademark because they said it is currently offending the majority of Asian Americans. However, that line of thinking ridiculous, especially when one considers the overwhelming support that we’ve had from the Asian American community all across the board. Several third party studies were conducted about the term “Slant” and in every case, the overwhelming majority of Asian Americans supported our use of the name. We sent in a 400+ page report with legal and historical evidence, expert reports from one of the editors at the New American Oxford Dictionary, life-long API activists, and more but they still continue to deny us the right to protect our brand. However, we’ll continue fighting for what is right.

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Should We Have the Freedom to Disparage Ourselves as a Race? I think so! But no one else can!

The Slants should they be allowed to trademark their name jadeluckclub http://JadeLuckClub.com celebrating Asian American Creativity and perserverance legal rights of Asian Americans and protecting freedom of speech

Today I launched my blog. It wasn’t really ready but I just sort of did it anyway. You know, living on the edge. Anyway, I opened my new gmail account and this is the first email I’ve received for my blog:

Hi,

This is Simon Tam from Asian dance rock band, The Slants. I’m contacting you today because I am seeking help for our case with the U.S Trademark Office. I noticed you began following the band on Twitter, visited your website, and I think you could help make a difference in our fight.

One year ago, we filed to receive trademark protection for “The Slants.” As you might or might not know, we originally used this outdated racial slur as a point to inject pride into a common stereotype about the Asian American population. The band has had unbelievable unilateral support from the Asian Pacific American community, from major media sources to community organizations.

However, the Trademark Office rejected our claim. For the past year, we have been exhausting a significant portion of our resources in a fight with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office to earn the trademark. They claim that our name is disparaging to persons of Asian descent, citing wiki-sources such as urbandictionary.com and claiming that our efforts in citing dozens of the largest Asian American media figures and press, API festivals, written testimony from API community leaders, and showing other examples of API positively using the term was “laudable” but “not persuasive.”

Not only is the US Trademark Office wrong on the law, but they’re striping away rights from minority groups to have the ability to make their own decisions as to what is appropriate to our communities. By denying The Slants the rights associated with federal trademark registration, the U.S. Government is, in effect, making decisions about how members of a cultural group can define themselves. This is our chance to make history.

I would like to ask if you would be gracious enough to help with us with this case by writing a letter of support (I can send you the form, it only takes a few minutes to complete)? We’re currently enlisting individuals and organizations who are willing to support this fight. We have one final appeal with the Trademark Office and I’d like to use every possible resource for this filing. If you would be able to find the time to do this, we would be forever in your debt.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,

Simon Tam

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What do you think? Should we be allowed to disparage ourselves? I say vehemently YES! I was going to name my blog “Yellow” or, what was my other idea again?… oh yes, “Banana Split.” The url for Banana Split was taken.

Seriously, should The Slants be allowed to trademark their name?  Is this a case of racial discrimination? Who is the trademark office protecting anyway? The Slants from Asians? The Slants from name that brands poorly? If you think the trademark office is WRONG, please email Simon to help out. I think it’s our civic duty to rise up and defend our rights. During WWII, we were unable to get our voice heard and guess what happened? Yep, my mom and her family was forcibly removed from her home to be relocated as a perceived “threat.” This is no different folks. It’s a slippery slope to giving up our collective voice.

And check out The Slants. They are not half bad. In middle-age speak, it means my kids will love them!

p.s. And I am so impressed by how well Simon writes. It’s a clear, succinct, and well written letter. It would make his parents proud! It would be churlish to say no!

 

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