Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 2: “Boys II Man”
Original airdate September 29, 2015.
Microsynopsis: Eddie and his lunch crew learn that there are benefits to having a friend who flunked eighth grade. Jessica and Eddie butt heads over what Eddie’s fifth-period elective should be. Louis won’t let go of his dream of having a daughter, despite Jessica’s refusal.
Good: I’m relieved to see a return to the Eddie-centric plot. Everything about this episode clicks into the place it works best, including Louis less as restauranteur and more as father, Jessica as mom and wife and neighbor, Grandma with Evan and Emery as comedic background, and Honey and Nicole as character development for Jessica and Eddie. With Eddie as the central character but Jessica as the one who holds everything together, the show is at its comic (and storytelling) grooviest, especially when Eddie isn’t being a jerk. This is a family sitcom, which means it must be tempting to tilt over into lesson-of-the-week sappiness, but the resolution here is sweet without getting syrupy. And I have to say that the second-to-last last scene, with the girl playing “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,” is a completely unpredictable, brilliant idea, one that bodes well for possible new plot lines in Season 2. This should have been the season premiere.
Bad: This is the last time I’m going to complain about this, because I know it’s futile to waste time on it: I really miss real-life Eddie Huang’s voiceovers in this program, and I hope the show finds some way to make up for some of the edginess it loses without it. I’m still not sure how I feel about Eddie’s friends, or in fact just about anything that happens when Eddie is in school. This new administrator with the Asian wife is kind of funny but still impossible to believe, and Eddie’s friends are still like exaggerated characters from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which are exaggerations themselves. I spent sixteen years as a middle- and high-school teacher, but I swear I’m not like that retired sailor who points out all the errors in every war movie on cable (that would be my dad). I expect a certain amount of comic caricature, but everything seems so over the edge that it’s like Eddie and his brothers step through a cartoon door when they get to school and back through a real-life door when they head back for home. It feels wrong.
FOB moment: Jessica cites a Chinese folk tale, referring to its heroine by her Chinese name. I don’t know what she says, but I get the sense it’s total BS. It might even be the name of food instead the name of a character in a story.
Soundtrack flashback: “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men; “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg.
Final grade, this episode: Constance Wu gets (possibly fair) criticism for her accent, but not enough credit for her excellent comic acting. She’s great in all her scenes with Honey, and I love her reaction to Honey’s revelation about playing Twister. When the material is strong, the acting in this program is excellent. This is the sort of thing I’d want to watch with my kids. B+.
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You probably have heard of The Honest Company because of actress and entrepreneur Jessica Alba, but Lee is a serial entrepreneur whose successes include LegalZoom.com. Forbes had an excellent article about how Alba and Lee met and started the company. I’m glad to see that Lee is getting some PR through this commercial.
BTW, I also like the fact that Lee has his family in the commercial and looks like any other normal American family. There’s an added plus that his kids are super adorable.
From various sources, I read that Shinbashi Dori has been called the most beautiful street in Asia. After reading that, I couldn’t possibly pass up the opportunity to hunt this street of beauty down and check it out. So, with a couple guides and my trusty international T-mobile phone with me, I steered my group down to the Gion district where Shimbashi Dori is just a block down from the Yasaka Shrine.
Did it meet my expectations? Absolutely. My pictures, though nice, really don’t do it justice.
KPCC, Southern California’s public radio station, recently hosted this panel on Race, Comedy, and Prime Time TV. The guest panelists were:
It’s worth watching not only because Joz is a panelist, but also because of wide range topics such as the creation and initial reception of “Fresh off the Boat,” Matt Damon’s recent comments, and how TV shows are cast. I found that last part interesting in that shows needing actors will ask for specific ethnicities or say that a part is open to any ethnicity. You can see the video embedded above or at this link.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 1: “Family Business Trip” (Season 2 Premiere)
Original airdate September 22, 2015.
Microsynopsis: Eddie’s plans for entering seventh grade with a cool summer vacation story are destroyed (by a funny story from Yo! MTV Raps‘s Ed Lover) until Louis agrees to take the family to a business convention near a theme park. Evan struggles with realizing that he is no longer a baby.
Good: It was a great feeling just to see the opening credits again for another season. Many things about this show annoy me, but I really do enjoy the characters, editing, and pop culture references, so yeah: I’m rooting for its success. Evan’s opening voice-over is cute, and I enjoyed the clever way it was woven into the show’s narrative. Ditto the soundtrack music when Eddie couch-potatoes for the first three months of his vacation. One of my favorite gags, Emery’s popularity with the ladies, is played all-out this week and it’s hilarious. The character named Gator Carol is played by Sarah Baker, who had that great performance in the “So Did the Fat Lady” episode of Louie; it was a nice surprise to see her turn up here.
Bad: The writers aren’t making it a priority to come up with truly resonant, meaningful stories for Eddie without driving the whole show off the edge. It hadn’t been a summer hiatus secret that Eddie’s voiceovers would probably not continue into season two, but without it, his presence on the program is diminished to that of a supporting player, a move that weakens the program. Without Eddie’s being a central character, the theme song and hip-hop references don’t make any sense. He doesn’t have to be the main story of every episode; however, starting season two with this story feels like a statement about this becoming more a show about the family than Eddie. That’s going to take some getting used to.
FOB moment: Thousand-year-old egg with tofu and grass jelly drink.
Soundtrack flashback: “This is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan
Final grade, this episode: There’s not a lot to complain about, but neither is there much to get excited about beyond the show’s continued existence. It’s nice to see Lucille Soong and Chelsey Crisp moved to the opening credits. I’m very excited about this show’s return to my weekly routine–I’ve become a fan of the principal actors and appreciate the show’s continued attempts to deliver something creative and original. Still, everyone needs a little bit of time to get into mid-semester form after summer vacation. C.
FRESH OFF THE BOAT: SEASON 1
Having been born & raised in a suburb of Springfield, Massachusetts (about 90 miles West of Boston), I’m surprised that I did not come across hearing about Lisa Wong, but I had only started blogging in January 2007 and she was first elected in November 2007. I learned about Wong when a friend of mine posted on Facebook a Boston Globe article about her leaving Fitchburg, where she was mayor – to be with her husband, who is running for mayor of Holyoke, about 1.5 hour drive away:
“Lisa Wong is a rising political star, the turnaround artist in Fitchburg, the first Asian-American mayor in the Bay State [Massachusetts]. … Indeed, Wong will not seek a fifth term. … She had three degrees at age 20. … Wong, 36, was a high school valedictorian who went on to earn three degrees from Boston University, run an economic empowerment group for women, and win the historic mayoral election by the time she was 27. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she grew up in North Andover, one of three children in a quiet family. She came to Fitchburg around 2001 to lead the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority.”
Fitchburg is 3.6% Asian. I was just looking up the demographics of my hometown (not far from Holyoke), and although I was subconsciously aware that it was predominately white, I didn’t realize it was 95% white (according to the 2000 census). So I have to imagine it was even whiter when I grew up there in the 1980s. Massachusetts overall is 6% Asian.
In any case, I’m glad to have learned about Wong, though I vaguely recall an Asian American running for some elected office in Massachusetts who would have been a first for something, but not sure if was for a mayoral position.
While researching places to go in Kyoto, I have to admit, I was trying to live my Rurouni Kenshin years and wanted to see “old Kyoto” where ever it may still exist, while temples and gardens are key destinations in such a search, I realized that I would also have to find *streets*.
Thanks to the efforts of Kyoto citizens to preserve the historic architecture and vibe of their ancient city, there are certain areas that have preserved traditional machiyas, two-story live-work homes that have shops on the first floor. One of such places, a twin pair of streets that I had to track down were Ninen Zaka (2 Year Road) and Sannen Zaka (3 Year Road). The belief is that if you trip on the Ninen Zaka, you’ll have 2 years of bad luck, and three years if you trip on the Sannen Zaka. (I’m happy to report I didn’t trip at all.) These two roads run up towards the Kiyomizudera, my temple of non-destiny that I missed in my two visits to Kyoto throughout my life. Because this temple has been there for centuries, these two roads have always been there for quite some time as well, and they have been servicing pilgrims to the temple and travelers to Kyoto for hundreds of years.
Included in this year’s edition of The Best American Poetry, edited by Sherman Alexie, is a poem worthy of significant controversy. It is a poem by one Yi-Fen Chou, the Chinese pen name of a white writer named Michael Derrick Hudson. Yi-Fen Chou is in fact the name of a woman Hudson attended high school with in Indiana.
There has been a lot written about the whole debacle, from the New York Times to Asian American Writers Workshop. (Debacle being only one of many applicable words to describe this infuriating if sadly unsurprising additional episode in the long saga of a problematic publishing world that is somehow well-acknowledged, and yet simultaneously discounted and in perpetual need of reiteration).
But the best thing so far (in my opinion) is from Jenny Zhang, “They Pretend to Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist” for Buzzfeed. I highly recommend reading it in its entirety, but here are some excerpts, because THIS:
I won’t be scandalized by a white man who hasn’t considered that perhaps what helped his poem finally get published was less the fake Chinese woman he pretended to be, and more the robust, unflappable confidence bordering on delusion that he and many privileged white men possess: the capacity to be rejected forty (40) times and not give up, to be told, “no we don’t want you” again and again and think, I got this. I know what will get me in. What may be persistence to him is unfathomable to me. Continue Reading »
Many years ago I was amazed when The Wife, a Registered Nurse, looked at someone at a party and immediately (and correctly, more on that later), pointed out that the person was a diabetic. I wondered how she figured that out, and after reading this National Institue of Health (NIH) press release about a recent study of diabetes occurrence in the US, it seems that the fact that the person was Asian American, and Filipino in particular, results in a higher probability that she was correct. The NIH created the graphic to the left which shows that Asian Americans sampled have a much higher incidence of Diabetes than non-Hispanic whites and that half all Asian American cases are undiagnosed.
Tanwi Nandini Islam’s debut novel Bright Lines is a coming-of-age story for three young girls in Brooklyn and a family trying to find itself. Ella returns home from college for the summer to see her aunt, uncle, and cousin in Brooklyn, her adopted family after her parent’s death. The girls–Ella, her cousin Charu, and their friend Maya–explore the city, boys and girls, their sexuality, their identities. Hashi and Anwar, the parents, immigrants from Bangladesh, try to balance their work and a relationship laced with the past.
The story is overflowing with plot which no overview could possibly give justice to and it is the plot that keeps the reader engaged as much as the characters who dominate. Of the several characters, Ella and Anwar are the most compelling and detailed. Their relationship also embodies the book’s thematic twists and turns about family, love, and how the past haunts the present and a search for home haunts each in a different way.
The first part of the story takes place in Brooklyn, a summer of exploration, confusion, and frustration. The girls bike around the city, seeking escape from their homes. The parents separately delve into their passions, business and otherwise. The pages are filled with friction, even amidst summer’s frivolity, and the complex web of character relations begins to emerge. The second part sends the family on vacation to Bangladesh, where the new setting refocuses the multiple identity crises in the family and they are reunited with Ella and Charu’s grandfather and uncle. With a lot packed into these pages, it is an almost overwhelming whirlwind with generations, couples, families, cousins, friends, lovers, immigrants, New Yorkers, all trying to untangle their selves and a complex web of relationships. Yet this active fervor captures the trials of growing up or growing in general in exactly that it does sometimes all happen at once.
Although we’re nearing the end of the summer, I’ve only recently noticed this Simon Premium Outlets tv ad:
I was wondering if maybe Simon had in mind targeting Asian Americans or Asian tourists looking for a good deal, or if this actress was casted race-blind? Or maybe Simon just advertises with attractive women in their ads, regardless of race.
The image above is of Kiyomizudera buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, the night I was there. Except I wasn’t there. I had walked up to the temple that New Year’s eve in 2014 and found it closed. What I didn’t know was that the temple would open up a couple hours after I had arrived at the temple for New Year’s lighted up viewing. So I missed this amazing sight. Yeah, pretty much.
This was not the first time I missed a chance to see Kyomizudera. When I had visited Kyoto for the first time with my family nearly two decades ago, my brother and I had told my mom that we were sick of seeing temples and wanted to wander on our own. While we discovered Dance Dance Revolution, our parents went to Kiyiomizudera without us.
So I currently call this breathtakingly beautiful temple my temple of non-destiny since I basically missed both chances I had to visit it.