Degrees of Separation, Part One - Mojo Rider

We’ve all heard about 6 degrees of separation and have had those “small world” moments when running into someone who’s a friend of your friend. Within the last few months, I’ve had some moments like that and it got me thinking more about the phenomena. It touches upon what Kobukson and James have talked about in the previous post.

But first, let me describe the events. I had been talking to my cousin and his wife Alexis (who is from Hong Kong and educated here in the US) about this indie movie Shanghai Kiss and how it was able to honestly portray an Asian American male in a lead role. I’ve also commented on this movie in another thread on this blog. Anyway, they seemed interested in it and so I loaned my copy to them.

Ken Leung with Kelly Hu in "Shanghai Kiss"

Just recently, we met up at my nephew’s birthday party and my cousin’s wife approached me and said they watched the movie. She laughed and said that for a romantic drama it was a male fantasy, which in some ways it was, but she liked it because it had nothing to do with martial arts and all that kind of crap. Honestly, the storyline is okay, but its significance is more about showcasing a talented actor like Ken Leung in a lead role for this film.

But---and here comes the degrees of separation---what was interesting was that she told me that she knows Byron Mann and how she loved his scene in the movie. She didn’t know that Mann was in the movie so it was a nice surprise. Moreover, she went on to tell me that she last saw Byron about 20 years ago but that she knew him growing up in Hong Kong. They last had contact when Mann was going to law school at UCLA and she was going for her graduate degree at Princeton. But it wouldn’t be hard for her to get back in touch with him. How would she do it? Well, she would go through her friends. And that’s the basis for the six degrees of separation.
Actor Byron Mann

The second case involves a distant cousin of mine, Tom. We had actually grown up in the same neighborhood, went to the same public schools but we hung in different circles and weren’t close. And it was awhile before we discovered we were related. Tom seems to be someone in the middle of things, the social hub.

Anyway, this incident was at another cousin’s wedding back in October (I have a huge extended family). I had been seated at a table with some other relatives and a few other guys I didn’t know. One of my brothers and I were talking to one of them, it turned out he knew my distant first cousin, Tom. It’s one of those things where in discussing commonalities, like going to the same school, someone says, “So back in college, did you know a guy named Tom who headed up the intramural basketball team for…?”

And what is funny is that my distant cousin Tom had met several of my other first cousins some years back through sports events put on by the Washington DC Chinese Youth Club here in the DC area before we realized we were distant cousins (it’s complicated!). He ran into one my older cousins who went out to LA for a volleyball tournament (the North American Chinese Invitational Volleyball tournament), he ran into another cousin doing this, doing that, etc. And to top it off, his younger brother Bo, who was a year ahead of me in school, married a close girlfriend of Alexis, the one who knows Byron Mann.

So where am I going with this? With your indulgence, let me lay the ground work in part two and I will try and tie it all together to make a point.

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