Ms Marvel Episode 4 Review: Seeing Red (Major Spoilers)

Even as Ms Marvel has passed the half way point, I am still finding the series to be intriguing. While it wasn’t perfect, I really enjoyed Episode 4, titled Seeing Red, especially from an Asian American point of view (more on that below).  Some major spoilers after the jump.
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Bias in Source Code Review Pushback impacts Asians and other groups at Google


You would think that tech rank and file positions in Silicon Valley (as opposed to upper and executive management) would be where Asians would experience less bias, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Researchers at Google have found that within Google, Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, women, and older engineers receive more pushback from their reviews of source code than do younger white males.  In their study published on March 22, 2022 in the Communications of the ACM, authors Emerson Murphy-Hill, Ciera Jaspan, Carolyn Egelman, and Lan Cheng said that they expected groups other than Asians to get more pushback, but they were surprised that Asians got more pushback too.  The authors estimate that this extra pushback costs non-White and non-male more than 1,000 extra engineer hours every day, a productivity loss for Google.

What is code review pushback and why is extra pushback an issue?  At Google and many other places where software is developed, proposed changes in code are reviewed by other people.  Developers receiving the reviews don’t have to accept and act on the feedback, and they can push back on that feedback.  Responding to the pushback make take a few rounds of explaining – the cost to Google (and most likely, other organizations using similar review processes) being extra time that Asians and others need to devote to this. Google, in their open source documentation, has a web page that talks about how to deal with pushback.

The paper authors say that they are surprised at the results, but is this result really surprising?  Lots of assumptions are made based solely on names, and previous studies suggest that with identifiably Asian and other group names can suffer because of the assumptions and prejudices.  The authors suggest anonymizing the reviewers names.  Previous studies of orchestra auditions have shown that anonymization and hiding identifying information like gender can reduce bias.  Using blind reviewing doesn’t seem to reduce the review quality.

Various levels of blind reviewing has been done in the academic journal spaces for some time.  This has its disadvantages also, as some times reviewers can figure out who the paper submitter is just from the content or references.  Similarly, the developers who are reviewed might be able to figure out the ethnicity of their reviewer from grammar and wording, detecting reviewers for whom English is a second language.

I find this study interesting because it shows that reducing bias has benefits for an organization beyond any particular notions of political correctness. The articles on this subject don’t actually say whether anonymizing reviewers reduces bias in pushback, only that it doesn’t impact the actual process of code review.  I’d like to see them follow up on the actual effect on bias.  I see this type of anonymization becoming more common, and I have even seen some uses of it internally within the company where I work.

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Ms Marvel Episode 3 Review: Destined (Minor Spoilers)

When I first the saw this official clip, I really wanted to see episode 3 of Ms. Marvel, Destined. It has nothing to do with superheroes, but that is part of the charm of the show. Here are some of my thoughts on the episode below (some minor spoilers below).

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Ms Marvel Episode 2 Review: Crushed (Minor Spoilers)

I watched the second episode of Ms. Marvel along with the Wife and Number Two Son, and I liked it even better than the first!  The Wife and Number Two Son were initially skeptical whether they should watch it, but now, the Wife is anxious to see the next episode and Number Two son, while still skeptical, is definitely intrigued.  In the next section, I’ll talk about the things I liked and thought were notable (some spoilers below).

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During the pandemic, my family picked up the habit of watching Marvel streaming TV series together, from Wandavision through Moon Knight.  With Ms. Marvel, Number Two Son said that he wasn’t interested. The lead character of Ms. Marvel is a Pakistani American teenager, and he thought that it would not be as adult oriented as previous Marvel TV series.  I really wasn’t sure about it myself, as I had never read the comic book character that it was based upon, but I decided to watch it by myself.  I am glad I did as I was pleasantly surprised!

(image credit: Marvel Studios)

Some of the comments about the movie that I have seen mentioned that it has a Scott Pilgrim vs the World kind of vibe. I never saw that movie, but the episode brought to mind various Nickelodeon teen series. The Pakistani American family scenes parts reminded me of The Big Sick. In a way, Number Two Son was right that it wasn’t as adult oriented as previous series, definitely not on the range of Moon Knight.  Still, I found that I could identify with being an awkward not so popular teenager, especially one that is the child of immigrant Asian parents. Iman Vellani does this with a fine job of portraying Kamala Khan, although I must confess that as a parent who has experienced the teenage stage three times, I had more empathy for Kamala’s parents!

The setting of Ms. Marvel is in Jersey City, a location that resonates with me.  My mother’s first job in the United States was in Jersey City, working as a nurse at the famed Margaret Hague Maternity hospital, more than 60 years ago. Many Filipinos live in Jersey City (it has a little Manila, including some of The Wife’s relatives.

Like Turning Red, Ms. Marvel has been reviewed bombed. As that Forbes article points out, many people don’t like the fact that the lead character is non-white and muslim. I personally am looking forward to watching the next episode. I will probably check out the Scott Pilgrim vs the World movie also. Ms. Marvel episode 1 first aired on June 8 and was the first of 6 episodes that are planned.  Vellani is also slated to appear in The Marvels, the sequel to Captain Marvel.

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“38 At the Garden” – A Community Conversation with Jeremy Lin

Ten years after Linsanity, Frank Chi has created 38 At the Garden. The title is a reference to NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin scoring 38 points against Kobe Bryant’s LA Lakers.

The upcoming documentary, which will be premiering this June 12th at the Tribeca Film Festival, conveys what Jeremy Lin and Linsanity meant to Asian Americans, exploring Asian American sterotypes, Lin breaking an Asian American stereotype, and how stereotypes are used against Asian Americans, especially in the age of Asian hate crimes, or as stated in its IMDB entry:

Follows the cultural impact of NBA trailblazer Jeremy Lin during his 2011-12 season with the New York Knicks and the cultural phenomenon known as ‘Linsanity'”

With the impending documentary premiering, Jeremy Lin and the filmmakers held a community event to discuss what Linsanity meant as well as some community member leaders that have been beneficiaries of Jeremy Lin’s foundation. Some of the recepients of the foundation were also in attendance at the event.

The audience only got to see a five minute clip of the documentary which the producers asked not to videotape because the film had not premiered yet. I’m looking forward to streaming or seeing the documentary in person. If you want to relive Linsanity now, there’s always the original documentary highlighting Lin’s path to the NBA and the outbreak of Linsanity.

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US Memorial Day: Commemorating John Douangdara and his Navy Memorial Statue

As a Navy veteran, one thing my father wanted to do is to see his name in the register of Navy veterans in the US Navy Memorial in Washington DC.  When the Wife and I finally took him there, I was surprised to see a bronze statue of an Asian American displayed prominently.  The statue was of Lao American John Douangdara and Bart, a military dog.  John Douangdara, from South Sioux City Nebraska, was a Navy dog handler who was killed in 2011 along with Bart when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan during a rescue mission.

Douangdara was the son of Laotian immigrants.  He was an elite level dog handler and was assigned to support Seal Team Six.  Before he died, he earned the Bronze Star with valor.  His sister has written a moving tribute to him here.  Douangdara was buried in Arlington National Cemetary.

The Bronze statue is called Service and Sacrifice and was created by Sculptor Susan Bahary.  It was installed in 2021 as a permanent part of the US Navy Memorial and was commissioned by the US War Dogs Association. There is also a dog park dedicated and named in his honor in Douangdara’s hometown of South Sioux City which contains a smaller version of the statue.

John Douangdara’s bronze statue stands in contrast to the sentiments of an increasing number of Americans who feel that Asian Americans are not loyal to the US.  While his service record is permanently enshrined, we looked at the Navy Log registry to find my father’s information but did not find his service record.  Apparently the Memorial does not have a direct feed from military records and the information needs to be entered by Navy Veterans and their families. We are working on the process described here to make sure that like John Douangdara, my father’s service information will be recorded and made available to all.

The Service and Sacrifice statue can be found inside the US Navy Memorial, located at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington DC.

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When Asian Americans are “too American”: Filipino Americans in the 1930’s

(photo credit: Anita Navalta Bautista)

A recent poll suggests that many Americans think that Asian Americans are more loyal to their country of origins than to the United States.  In contrast, a blog post from the JSTOR Daily describes a time when Asian Americans immigrants seemed more hip and more American than the Americans born in the US.

As a result of being colonized by the US, Filipinos coming to the US during the 1930’s were very familiar with American culture and fashion.  LA Times writer Maddin Malone talked about this in 1938:

The little brown men from the Philippines [sic] are two or three years ahead of the styles and the well dressed American in a few seasons will be wearing what they are wearing down in Los Angeles and Main streets now.

Despite working as farm workers, these Filipino Americans known as the Manongs (from “manong” meaning “older brother”) would buy suits in the latest fashions and wear them around town and in dance halls.  Apl.de.ap‘s Bebot (Generation 1) music video shows a stylized version of the slick outfits and activity in these dance halls.  Ironically, being fashion forward and culturally aware of American trends contributed to anti-Filipino riots, according to some:

The Filipinos got into trouble at Watsonville because they wore ‘sheiker’ clothes, danced better and spent their money more lavishly than their Nordie fellow farm hands.

Then, as now, being a model minority can still get you beaten up.

One custom suit maker that catered to the Manongs was Macintosh Studios.  The picture above is taken from that SFGate article.  The article also mentions a sociologist, Paul Cressey, who in 1932 studied taxi dance halls frequented by custom suit wearing Filipino men.  Cressey is quoted as saying:

the young Filipino in this country is, from the point of view of some people, too readily Americanized

You can read more about this subject in the paper Filipinos are the Dandies of the Foreign Colonies”: Race, Labor Struggles, and the Transpacific Routes of Hollywood and Philippine Films, 1924–1948 and in Paul Cressey’s study The Taxi-Dance Hall (institutional license required).

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Actor James Hong *FINALLY* Receives Star Hollywood Walk of Fame

Last week, actor James Hong, at age 93, *finally* received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

“Hong, 93, who was joined by celebrity guest speakers Daniel Dae Kim and Jamie Lee Curtis, unveiled his star in a ceremony, becoming one of just 19 people of Asian descent to make it on the walk out of more than 2,700. Hong told the crowd of co-stars and fans that he hoped to soak up the occasion.

Hong — who has 700 credits, including “Blade Runner” and Disney’s original “Mulan” — was honored at a ceremony attended by several of his co-stars over the years. Also in attendance were most of the cast of his recent sci-fi comedy, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” in which he plays Gong Gong, the father of the main character, Evelyn. The event also featured a lion dance he arranged himself, in addition to speeches. 

A handful of other Asian American and Pacific Islanders will also receive stars this year, including Jason Momoa, Ming-Na Wen and apl.de.ap, who is of Filipino descent, as a member of the Black Eyed Peas. Hong got his star after more than 70 years of work in the industry, alongside his constant advocacy for more Asian American representation in Hollywood.  

Along with a few other Asian American artists, Hong launched the Asian American theater group East West Players in 1965 with the goal of increasing the visibility of the Asian American experience. Hong, a military veteran who also worked several years as an engineer, has told NBC Asian America that his early experiences prompted his lifelong desire to fight for equity.”

My first recollection of recognizing Hong was when I saw him as a kid in the film Big Trouble in Little China, but I am sure I’ve seen him in countless different roles before that and certainly afterwards.

He was of course recently in Everything Everywhere All at Once. It’s great to see that Hong finally gets the recognition he has long deserved.

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Now on Netflix: ‘Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres’


Back in October of last year, we reviewed the documentary ‘Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres,’ which was still making the film festival circuit (I believe) and released theatrically. Now the documentary is available on Netflix. From the press release:

“The film, directed by Suzanne Joe Kai, is an insightful, moving and entertaining portrait of the iconic Asian American journalist who was instrumental in the careers of many iconic music legends. It was no secret that every rock/pop/soul music act of the 70’s yearned to be on the cover of the revolutionary Rolling Stone magazine and be interviewed by Ben Fong-Torres.

Executive produced by Oscar® winning Freida Lee Mock, Oscar® nominated Bryn Mooser, award winning Doug Blush and the late Tony Hsieh, LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES shows us how the legendary Rolling Stone magazine writer and music editor, defined the cultural zeitgeist of the ’60s and ’70s. Featuring incredible archival footage and intimate interviews with Ben Fong-Torres, Cameron Crowe, Annie Leibovitz, Carlos Santana, Elton John, Steve Martin, Bob Weir, Quincy Jones, Marvin Gaye and more, this film brings us the personal story of this legendary journalist.”

I had watched a screener at the time, and was surprised to see all the great footage of some legendary and iconic musicians and entertainers that Ben Fong-Torres got to interview. If you’re interested at all about music and entertainment or the 60’s and 70’s, this is a must see documentary.

Note that owners of the trailer do not allow it to be embedded, but you can see it by directly following this link.

 

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8Books: AANHPI Month Children’s Book Roundup

In honor of Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, here’s not one, not two, but eight recently or about to be released children’s books to check out. I remember very few Asian American picture books from when I was growing up, so am thrilled at the diversity and creativity that’s available today. I also love that more and more books are not shying away from including multiple languages, whether it be as fully bilingual books or choosing not to translate key words or phrases.

Luli and the Language of Tea
Andrea Wang, pictures by Hyewon Yum

In this very sweet story, Luli hatches a plan to help her classmates — all non-English speakers — find common ground. She brews a pot of tea, and beckons them to join her. The book has each child giving their language’s pronunciation of tea, all very similar to Luli’s cha. The children all gather around the table, sharing and passing tea. The story includes the word for tea in the characters (Chinese and Hindi, for example) as well as a pronunciation guide.

 

‘Ohana Means Family
Ilima Loomis, illustrated by Kenard Pak

‘Ohana Means Family celebrates all the things that go into making poi for a lu’au and offers a glimpse of Hawaiian culture and ethos. The story progressively adds elements (a la “the house that Jack built”) — from the kalo (taro) to the hands that pick it, from the land that’s never been sold and the sun and wind — the rhyming lines have a well-paced rhythm to them and accompany lush watercolors

 

Love in the Library
Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Yas Imamura

Set in Minidoka incarceration camp, Love in the Library tells the story of two people–Tama and George–finding each other during an extremely difficult time and is based on the author’s grandparents experience. I was reminded that Japanese American incarceration during World War II remains an under-known story when someone I know picked up the book from my shelf and asked if it really happened. Tokuda-Hall offers a succinct summary of what happened within the story and in the author’s note. And ultimately the story of Tama, a librarian, and George, a frequent patron, is one of sweetness and resilience. “To fall in love is already a gift. But to fall in love in a place like Minidoka, a place built to make people feel like they weren’t human–that was miraculous.”

 

Have You Eaten? A Story of Food, Friendship, and Kindness
Su Yuon Lee

Coco the chipmunk is known for asking her friends and neighbors, “have you eaten?” Inspired by the Korean greeting, her friends–who initially find this odd–learn why Coco always ask this and shares sweet potatoes. Have You Eaten? is adorably illustrated and reveals the caring spirit behind this greeting. The back of the book includes an author’s note that goes into more depth on the origins of the greeting and a recipe for making Korean-style sweet potatoes.

 

The Leaping Laddoo
Harshita Jerath, illustrated by Kamala M. Nair

Written in the style of “you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man,” The Leaping Laddoo is about an Indian sweet that springs to life (reminding me first of the Pixar short Bao before I realized the gingerbread man thing) and then proceeds to try and not get eaten. He runs past dancers, a chai wala, cricket players, and more, chanting “Bhago, bhago, as fast as you can, you can’t eat me I’m the laddoo man!” Suffice to say, it’s fun to read out loud and the illustrations are great. Oh, and there’s a recipe at the back because you’ll probably be hungry when you’re done — and if you’ve never eaten a laddoo, truly, they are delicious.

 

Mommy’s Hometown
Hope Lim, illustrated by Jaime Kim

In Mommy’s Hometown, a young boy listens to his mom’s stories about her hometown. But when they finally get a chance to visit, so many things are changed that it doesn’t match the stories anymore. The book grapples with this adjustment for both the boy and the mom, inspired by the author Hope Lim’s own experience visiting her hometown with her son and husband.

 

Chinese Kite Festival
Rich Lo

This bilingual English and simplified Chinese book uses rich illustrations to teach animal names and actions. A guide in the back shares what the animals signify in Chinese culture — a crab represents prosperity and success; a turtle symbolized long life and immortality. The kite drawings are bright and playful. I’ll admit that the Chinese is beyond my basic knowledge (I know the word for butterfly, for example, but not for flutter), but I appreciate that it’s there.

 

I’ll Go and Come Back
Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Sara Palacios

The first time Jyoti visits her grandmother in India, she is overwhelmed by how different it is. She doesn’t speak much Tamil and her grandmother doesn’t speak much English. But the two find ways to have fun together. Her grandmother takes Jyoti to the markets, they make rangoli in the courtyard together. She’s sad to leave, but remembers that in Tamil, they say “I’ll go and come back.” In the second half of the book, their roles are reversed when Jyoti’s grandmother comes to visit her in the United States. Jyoti teachers her grandmother hopscotch and they visit a grocery store. I’ll Go and Come Back lovingly conveys some of the challenges and joys of diasporic families.

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POV Presents A Special Encore Presentation ‘Who Killed Vincent Chin’ in Recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the 1982 Hate Crime

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2022, and one of the most consequential events in APA history is the killing of Vincent Chin, whose murders never got the justice they deserved. The documentary, ‘Who Killed Vincent Chin?’ will air nationally again on PBS on Monday, June 20, 2022 at 10pm ET.

PBS’s POV states:

“POV, now in its 35th year as America’s longest-running independent documentary series, presents a Special Encore Presentation of the gripping 1987 Academy Award® nominated film, Who Killed Vincent Chin?, by filmmakers Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Peña, on Monday, June 20, 2022 at 10pm ET. Who Killed Vincent Chin? was recently restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and also selected for the National Film Registry.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the racially motivated murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American, murdered by two white men, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, in Detroit, Michigan on June 19, 1982. The documentary, which originally aired on POV in March 1987, details the incident from initial eye-witness accounts, the ensuing murder trials to the lenient sentences the assailants received, and the repercussions for the families and community involved. Who Killed Vincent Chin? also chronicles how the case brought the disparate Asian American communities of Detroit together for the first time, and how they transformed themselves from a grassroots advocacy group into a national movement.

Their efforts helped bring public attention to the anti-Asian hate that led to Vincent Chin’s murder, and encouraged Asian American groups across the country to fight for equality and justice. The U.S. Department of Justice brought federal civil rights charges against the killers, who were ultimately acquitted on appeal, on grounds of pre-trial publicity and errors made with witnesses.

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Chin’s death, a series of Remembrance & Rededication activities organized in a partnership between the American Citizens for Justice, the Vincent and Lily Chin Estate, Detroit Public Television (DPTV), Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), and City of Detroit Arts and Culture (ACE) are scheduled to take place throughout the U.S. Here’s a list of the Vincent Chin 40th Rededication and Remembrance Events from June 16-19:

  • Vincent Chin 40th Commemorative Film Series – Detroit Film Theater, June 16th-17th
  • Midwest Asian American Documentary Filmmakers Convening – International Institute of Detroit, June 16th-17th
  • National Conversation on AAPIs, America, And Democracy – Detroit Film Theater, June 17th
  • An Evening of Asian American Arts, Music and Joy – St. Andrews Hall at Wayne State University, June 18th
  • Community Dialogues: Remembrance and Rededication – Detroit Film Theater, June 19th
  • Interfaith Remembrance Ceremony – Location TBD June 19th

For more information on these events, please visit VincentChin.org.”

The killing of Vincent Chin and the aftermath created a galvanizing moment in the United States and helped spawn the modern day Asian American movement.  In my opinion, it should be required viewing by all Americans.

With the rise of hate crimes against AAPIs the past few years due to COVID-19, it is even more important to remind ourselves that AAPIs are Americans too and that hate crimes affect AAPIs as well.

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