Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ghost in the Shell - Review

The first time I had read the manga and saw the original Ghost in the Shell movie, I was in college. It was part of a curriculum in a class about anime. We had a debate about whether Major was a woman, and at that time, I said no, it is a robot. When I heard that Hollywood is remaking the Ghost in the Shell movie, I was curious, because my interest in anime and manga continues.

I went to watch the remake with the awareness of the controversy around it, about casting Scarlett Johannsen over an Asian American actress. Since I was also from the original fan base interested in anime, I have a mental comparison of this new movie with the original media, the manga and the anime movies. It was barely like the original, because when an animated story turns into live action, storylines get condensed and CGI takes place of the animation.

My general feeling from the movie was it was trying to tackle too many themes at once, so each theme wasn’t given the attention it deserved. The way these ideas were handled were very blunt, without any nuance. SPOILERS!!

If this is supposed to be an Asian country, then why is the robot white? This may be a product of both Westernization and globalization, where lighter colored skin and wider eyes became standards of beauty. In reality, there is the cosmetic surgery industry where people buy double eyelids and receive breast implants. Getting a robot body is also lifesaving surgery, even though she has to take shots to prevent her brain from rejecting her body.

While the movie itself dealt with identity politics, it’s on a different field than most political debates. Major struggles with whether she is still human, since her body is robotic, and doctor visits feel like a car being fixed in a shop while the machinist becomes her therapist. Hollywood tries to argue that a robot body transcends race, and Scarlett Johannsen had comparable roles in Lost in Translation and Under the Skin.

However, it’s still a white robot - it has issues the same way that Barbie only represents blond blue eyed white girls and not girls with any other features or skin color. Hollywood could have tried discovering a Japanese American actress with acting experiences as a soldier or a character from an action horror film, since this movie has elements of both.

I had other issues with the science fiction part of the movie, but this is more due to my background in computer networking and studies in network security. The idea of cerebral hacking as a crime is fascinating, partially because it’s a society so mechanized that people’s brains are networked. A computer cannot be hacked if it’s never connected with other computers, and if it’s never on the internet. Also, if there’s antivirus and firewalls for computers, why wouldn’t these safeguards be created for people’s networked brains?

The movie didn’t like Asian women. There was the original Major, who was an Asian actress, but her part was so small that no one remembers her. There was also Major’s mother, who spoke in accented English. Those scenes with the mother should have been so much more emotional, but Hollywood may say that Major’s currently an android now, and can’t cry. She should still be able to cry coolant and machine oil - her robot eyes still need both cooling and lubrication. The other Asian characters were all Asian men. Why was the handler permitted to speak Japanese through the whole movie, but the mother had to have accented English? The streets of the city also didn’t have a lot of Asian people. Feels like cultural appropriation.

The other android, the prototype, was also modeled after a white guy. Mostly, during the scenes with the prototype, and later, with Theo, the lighting was too dark. I wouldn’t have been able to understand either the action or the dialogue if I didn’t read the original manga and seen the original animated movies. While Hollywood correctly assumed that many people from the original fan base would come see this movie out of curiosity, they didn’t elaborate enough for people who weren’t part of the original fan base. That may be a balancing act that adaptations cannot excel at.

Hollywood tried its best, but I can fully understand the movie losing out. I give it 2 stars out of 5, but would understand someone giving it a 1 star.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dragon Boat Social

Kung Fu Dad: Kung Fu and Music Teacher

Kung Fu Dad: Kung Fu and Music Teacher: Well now that I am leaving, the two preschools where I teach Kung Fu are looking for someone to come in to replace me. This is actually more...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Old letter translated

Dear fourth brother Po Yu:

How time flies, one year past by. Last year I received your letter and US$500 thank you again, I've been busy in this coming year so I write the letter to you till today.(the fifth day after Chinese lunar new year) I hope you have a happy new year and make a fortune.

Now Hong Kong is changed a lot, because of inflation, everything is so expensive, it is hard make a living here. I hope you can catch the chance in the US and then make a fortune, have a good life.

The fifth sister Po Ju wrote me a letter from Guang zhou (Guang dong Providence ). We didn't see each other for 30 years, she also missed you so much, and I told her now you are in the US. She want to see me again in Guang Zhou, but now I think it is hard to go there. After 15th this month, I will be not so busy, then I could write a detail letter to you, hope you are healthy, regards uncle Ji and he's family.

1980. 2/20(the fifth day from lunar new year)
third brother Po ?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The March for Science

The March for Science was yesterday, April 22, 2017, in many major cities across the country. Boston had one too, and it started in the Boston Common, which is right next to Chinatown - literally a stone’s throw away. Essex Street turns into Boylston Street heading west, and Boylston Street is where Boylston Station on the Green Line and the Boston Common Theater are. Many major events that Bostonians care about happen here.

In this way, many residents of Chinatown are able to be involved with the city’s events. It also helps that Chinatown is right next to Downtown Crossing and the financial district, the economic heart of Boston. This strategic location of Chinatown isn’t through luck. Chinese immigrants of past decades fought to be here. This is why the gentrification of Chinatown is a real issue. The Trump administration’s attack on science is also a real issue.

Trump appointed Scott Pruit to be the administrator of the Environment Protection Agency, who happens to be a climate change denier. He denies that humanity has had an adverse impact on planet Earth, that our use of plastics and pesticides is causing global warming, even though theories regarding pollution have been proven time and again through research. Trump is also slashing funding for the EPA, believes the climate change has no cost, fired and stopped hiring scientists, and changed the rules of scientific testing and analyses to ignore pollution.

Environmental policy should be important to everyone who drinks water and breathes air - that is, all of humanity, regardless of any other differences. Boston is a diverse and relatively green city. In 2012, Boston installed over 400 BigBelly trash and recycling receptacles, simple machines that use solar power to compress waste to be recycled or dumped. A handful of them are on the streets of Chinatown. In 2013, the Cleanup Chinatown Mission was formed in association with the Asian American Civic Association to help take care of the litter problem, which resulted in a much better environment in Boston Chinatown.

If you think about the way it takes this much effort to clean up just one neighborhood, then it should be clear that Trump’s ignoring science and changing the rules the way he’s been doing are really damaging to the environment all over the country. Whether you attended the March for Science or not, I encourage you to donate to organizations that are related to the sciences if you are able. Their site is My opinion is that science should be used to better human lifestyles, such as for the environment, for medicine, and for benevolent technology, instead of being used for military conflict.

The March for Science was well attended. This shows how many people care, which is awesome. Boston is also a very scientific city, full of hospitals and universities which do research in various fields. Recently, both Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse Tyson have been speaking extensively for science. Some creative signs from the March were “Got plague? Me neither. Thanks science!” and “There is NO Planet B”. The Trump administration’s attack on the sciences affects all Americans. We should all get involved.