Archive for November, 2008

Entrepreneurs on camera

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

One of the commenters on the Times series on immigrant entrepreneurs has a new blog called Self Made World, which aims to serve as a resource for immigrants seeking success in their own businesses. At the moment there are six 8- to 9-minute video interviews with business owners who came to the United States from Singapore, Belarus, Jamaica, England, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

They speak of long hours and hard work, of course, but also about the opportunity this country affords. Especially at a gloomy time like this, their level of optimism is heartening—these are people who are achieving their dreams. Thank god someone is. Even if you have no entrepreneurial aims, these are immigrant stories worth hearing. Check it out!

Irish stories

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Historian Peter Quinn (Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America, Banished Children of Eve) will talk about his life, writings, and struggles of the Irish in New York with Terry Golway next Monday at the Museum of the City of New York. Admission is $9 for nonmembers, and you can buy tickets ahead of time in case it sells out. The program is at 6:30 pm Monday, Dec. 2, at the MCNY, Fifth Ave at 103rd St.

A Laotian story

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008
Photo: Pandinlao Productions

The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), a documentary by Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath now playing at the IFC Center, is an absorbing and beautiful film about a family of Laotian refugees whose new life in gangland Brooklyn is not the heaven their mother dreamed of.

The film briefly covers the U.S. involvement in Laos during the Vietnam War. The family’s father was a Laotian soldier who worked for the CIA. When the Communists took over Laos, they took him away, and the family’s lives were threatened, so they fled to Thailand and then New York.

The mother and eight kids, suffering the loss of the father and the way of life they’d always known, were dumped in a shared apartment next to a crack house somewhere in the vicinity of Bushwick. I would have liked to know more about how they were able to adjust; how did they get from this situation, with nothing and no command of English, to the New Jersey house where some of the later interviews take place?

This is what immigrant aid societies are for, but they didn’t have one. (Instead, they had to deal with Asian gangs.) The kids go to school and learn English, and footage from 1985 shows them as pure Brooklyn teens. The mother’s struggle to keep her family together, and that of her son Thavisouk (co-director) to help her while he was still a child himself, is the heart of the story. There is more than one betrayal, but they survive.

Immigrant entrepreneur answers

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Jonathan Bowles, on the New York Times’ City Room blog, has now answered two sets of reader questions about immigrant entrepreneurs.

In part 1, he points out that all entrepreneurship is good for the economy, and that immigrants are almost 30 percent more likely than native-born Americans to start new businesses. But, he says, “there is evidence that fewer immigrant- and minority-owned businesses in New York City grow to the next level than in other cities.” Your thoughts, Mr. Bloomberg?

In part 2, among other things, Bowles discusses the effect of microfinancing. Microloans are up in New York City, he says, but they don’t begin to meet the demand. He also covers health issues briefly, mentioning that immigrants who take vacations in their home countries often try to delay doctor and dentist visits until those trips, because it’s so much less expensive elsewhere.

There’s more; check it out. And there’s still time to get your question in!

Energetic Polish dancing

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

The Polish American Folk Dance Company presents folk songs and dances from different regions of Poland at 3 pm Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Museum of the City of New York, Fifth Ave and 103rd St. Free with museum admission. “Authentic and energetic,” they call it; the company, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, “combines traditional folk elements with classical ballet training.” And the skirts are terrific.

Questions about immigrant entrepreneurs

Monday, November 17th, 2008

The New York Times City Room blog has recruited Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future, to take questions this week about challenges faced by immigrant entrepreneurs.

Readers can submit questions on the website; Bowles will answer selected ones. So far this morning, the questions that are most on-topic concern the health risks of becoming an entrepreneur and the backlog in immigrant green cards. The first set of answers will appear on Wednesday.

Chinatown noir

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Back in October, Steven Kurutz of the Times interviewed writer Henry Chang, who was born and raised in Chinatown, about his detective novels Chinatown Beat and Year of the Dog. This is a great opportunity to get a peek inside a Chinatown that’s not open to tourists, to say the least. “I tried to make the atmosphere as real as possible,” Chang says.

Chang will read from Year of the Dog, published this month by Soho Press, at 7 pm Thursday, Nov. 20, at the Museum of Chinese in America, 70 Mulberry St, 2nd floor. Free.

Times Square portraits

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

In last Saturday’s New York Times, Kirk Semple wrote about the artists from China, mostly men, who draw portraits and caricatures in Times Square. Sometimes more than 200 artists are vying for tourist business; prices range from $5 to $30. It’s an interesting life, but not a highly lucrative one.