Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on May 26, 2022 in Stuff You Should Know

James Hong is Honored by Hollywood

Hollywood’s star-studded Walk of Fame is iconic. Did you know that of the over 2,700 stars, only nineteen belong to people of Asian descent? The most recent honoree is James Hong, who has seven hundred film credits to his name. This includes roles in Blade Runner and Disney’s animated Mulan. Hong was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1929 to Chinese parents. He was drafted to fight in the Korean War. While serving, he discovered that he had a talent for entertaining his fellow troops by doing impressions. When the war was over, Hong moved to Los Angeles. He began appearing in films in the mid-1950s. 

Hong spent his career advocating for greater Asian American representation in Hollywood. His early roles were often stereotypical and did not always portray Asian culture respectfully. In 1965, he launched the East West Players, an Asian American theater group whose goal was to increase awareness of the Asian American experience. Hong has filled his later career with more complex, multifaceted Asian American characters. 

Hong isn’t the only member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community to receive a star this year. Actors Jason Momoa and Ming-Na Wen, as well as (a member of the music group Black Eyed Peas) will also be honored in 2022. 

Dig Deeper Who was the first member of the AAPI community to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? What was that person known for? 

Nonspeaker Delivers Graduation Address

Across the United States, high school and college seniors are attending graduation ceremonies and listening to commencement speeches. At Rollins College near Orlando, Florida, the commencement speech was given by Elizabeth Bonker, one of the school’s five valedictorians. Bonker has nonspeaking autism and has not spoken since she was fifteen months old. Bonker, with help from her support person, used text-to-speech software to share her message with her classmates. 

In her speech, Bonker talked about her heroes, including Helen Keller and Fred Rogers. Keller was the first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree—from Harvard University. Rogers, the creator and host of the children’s television program “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” graduated from Rollins College like Bonker. Bonker reminded her classmates about the importance of service and helping others. Her goal after graduation is to help others with nonspeaking autism. She has already launched a nonprofit called Communication 4 ALL. This group works to provide additional resources for nonspeaking students. Bonker is also a poet, lyricist, and the co-author (along with her mother) of the book I Am in Here, which discusses Bonker’s experiences with nonspeaking autism. Bonker is one of about 31 million nonspeakers with autism worldwide. 

Dig Deeper Use the Internet to locate and read Bonker’s speech. What is the most important part of her speech, in your opinion? 

Printing New Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are a critical ecosystem for countless marine species. The reefs also protect coastal areas from storms and erosion. But they are also very sensitive to their environment. Declining water quality, overfishing, coastal development, and climbing ocean temperatures have killed or damaged many coral reefs. Between 2008 and 2019, about fourteen percent of the world’s coral reefs died off. But an innovative solution might help. A group of Israeli scientists has developed a 3D printing method to create artificial coral reefs.  

Artificial reefs already exist, but they can’t totally replicate the complex structures of real coral reefs. The artificial printing process uses thousands of scanned photos of existing coral reefs to create a 3D model. Scientists then incorporate environmental data so that the structure is tailored to fit its environment. The model is printed with porous ceramic material. 

These first 3D-printed reefs replicate the coral that exists off the southern coast of Israel. But the method can be adapted to fit coral conditions around the world. The hope is that the artificial structures will host natural reef species such as corals, fish, and other invertebrates, and promote new life and growth.  

Dig Deeper Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is home to over four hundred coral species, 1,500 fish species, four thousand mollusk species, and six out of seven of the world’s sea turtle species. Yet half of it has been destroyed since 1995. Use an online presentation program to create an infographic that displays this information.

Timbuktu and Google

You can now see priceless ancient manuscripts from Africa from your home or on any computer! Thousands of manuscripts from the medieval West African city of Timbuktu are now preserved and available on Google Arts & Culture’s “Mali Magic” portal. The portal contains more than 40,000 pages dating back as far as the eleventh century. The manuscripts were originally written on a variety of material, including paper and animal skins. They cover a wide range of topics, including astronomy, mathematics, religion, medicine, and agriculture. Many also describe everyday life. Most of these artifacts have never been available to the public before.  

Digitizing these ancient manuscripts will provide a backup against the threats of war, fire, or other disasters. About ten years ago, conflict in Mali led to the destruction of several thousand manuscripts. More history would have been lost if not for the effort of several librarians. They smuggled 350,000 manuscripts out of Timbuktu and hid them in 27 different homes in the capital city of Bamako, more than six hundred miles away.  

It took a team of eight experts to scan and index each manuscript page by hand. They used a high-resolution scanner with a mounted camera. The manuscripts were then translated into English, Arabic, Spanish, and French. They were also supplemented with illustrations and other additional materials.  

Dig Deeper Explore Google Arts & Culture, where you can take a virtual tour of a museum, and even match a photo of your pet to famous painting! Write a paragraph about your favorite item that you saw and what you learned from it.