TV World // China {God of War, Zhao Yun}

Recently I’ve rediscovered Viki, a site I often visited in college when I was due (or not) for a study break. Suffice it to say that I am open to all kinds of life advice (quit your job, travel, don’t quit your job, etc.), but I tend to ignore the occasional “don’t waste your time on TV” line that shows up in listicles.

Viki’s layout has changed a bit since I first started using it to watch my beloved Asian shows, while the offering has expanded significantly. You can find content from Korea, Taiwan, China, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, and more places. Put it another way, Viki has made content that may be filed under niche genres in other SVOD services into its main value proposition.

With their international expansion, Netflix has stepped up its efforts to bring in just this type of global content. Viki’s original show Dramaworld has started streaming on the SVOD giant’s site, and Netflix is also looking to license Descendants of the Sun, a Korean show already on Viki. On first glance, these content plays make obvious sense for Asian markets, but explore the comments section under any episode on Viki. You’ll find discussion among fans in English, Spanish, Russian, and some Slavic languages I can’t name. It’s proof that TV can bring the world together (no drama intended).

This phenomenon becomes abundantly clear when a South Korean pop star carries a huge part of the draw to God of War, Zhao Yun, a Chinese martial arts fantasy. Girls’ Generation member Yoona is heavily featured in the marketing materials, and at least when I watched the first episode, the comments in the video player were from fans clamoring for her first line. (Spoiler: she does not show up yet.) It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say they were watching the show only because of her. This cross-pollination is not new though, as South Korean pop groups often include members from ChinaThailand, and elsewhere.

god of war art
Show art with Yoona front and center. (Source: dramovies.com)

Towards the end of the episode, I kind of felt the same. My curiosity about when she’d make her appearance was what kept me watching. There is a slight Game of Thrones aspect to the saga, but only slight. I realized halfway through that I just couldn’t connect with the story, and I was plain confused by some bits.

At one point, our gang of heroes come across an imposing white tiger mom who leads them to a trap, where she implies that she needs their help extracting her babies safely. They do, and a sentimental moment ensues as they acknowledge each other and separate on their respective paths once more. Perhaps the symbolism will come through later on in the series.

A strength contest occurs in the Chinese emperor’s court, where soldiers magically lift a heavy metal cauldron with their bare hands. For Godfrey Gao’s character (you may know him as Magnus Bane in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie), he does this with one hand. I’ve been away from the fantasy genre for a while, it seems!

Godfrey Gao in God of War (Source: fanpop.com)

You also can’t ignore the lavish and grand production design, and the language is incredibly poetic. It’s escapist drama at its best, although it still requires a significant suspension of disbelief. All the hallmarks of a classic Chinese period (and therefore, costume) drama are there, but now they’ve been upgraded for the modern omni-Asian entertainment fan. They may study Chinese in school because it’s the business language of the future, listen to Korean pop in the car, and have a passion for Tex-Mex. …Or maybe I just described myself!

Up in Skyspace To Get Out Of My Headspace

This past weekend, Los Angeles welcomed its newest attraction the Skyslide atop the OUE Skyspace LA observation deck. (Yes, I read that as “Wee Skyspace,” too.) The deck sits atop the recently renovated U.S. Bank Tower, and I learned that the building is the tallest one west of the Mississippi river while waiting in line for the slide.

As someone fortunate to have traveled to many places, I’ve been to the top of my fair share of tall buildings. I’m happy to say that the awe I feel each time has yet to be dampened, since I just find it utterly incredible that humans can build so much so high. Maintaining a sense of wonder, oddly enough, keeps me grounded.

tokyo tower
Tokyo Tower, seen from Roppongi Hills Mori Tower.

I think it’s the same reason I didn’t hesitate to buy a combo ticket for the Skyspace and Skyslide once I scrolled to a targeted ad in my Facebook feed. It goes to show that as strange and creepy as advertising has become nowadays, it sometimes works. In my daily life, my body rarely travels more than four stories up from the ground. And a shot of adrenaline was something I sorely needed. What better way to get it than sitting on a mat and sliding down a glass slide from the 70th to 69th floor? 🙂

IMG_8115

Besides getting a hilarious souvenir photo of myself, my ticket also provided a reality and perspective check. A trip to the Skyspace is not cheap. Between the ticket itself and pre-paid parking, it’s about $40. (Believe me, pre-paid was worth it. DTLA parking? Good luck, bro.) Of course, if you go with multiple people in a car, the parking fee seems trivial. But realizing that I could afford this small luxury? That was a rush in itself.

Here’s my view from just before the actual slide…

about to slide
Holy 2^*#$)@#

They said that if you wanted to get the biggest thrill, you could look to the left out over the expanse of Los Angeles. Most sensible people kept their eyes straight ahead. I was not one of those people. I dared to look and scare myself, and for the brief four seconds I felt like the daredevil I always imagine myself to be but seldom execute against.

I spent the rest of my time on the observation deck. My friends who work in tall office buildings probably wouldn’t understand why (or might think the opposite), but I felt invigorated being so much closer to the sun than I usually am. My current work is rather elevated yet in the weeds at the same time, and sometimes I lose sight of the “why” of it all. I’m so focused on desperately trying to understand the numbers and check all the footnotes that the details wear me down instead of painting a clearer picture. Perhaps it’s just professional infancy that I’ll grow out of. It’s definitely why I eschewed Starbucks during the week for this ticket, and it was well worth the trip to get out of my headspace.

Don’t Kick Gerald Off The Rock!

Last Sunday I attended an employee screening for Finding Dory, the long-awaited sequel to one of my generation’s beloved Pixar movies, Finding Nemo. Walking into any Pixar film, we expect an excellent story with bits of humor, sadness, and hope, as well as vivid characters who stay with us long after the theater. We, or at least I myself, don’t expect to feel uncomfortable at any point.

But that is exactly what I felt when the goofy sea lion character Gerald is introduced early on in the movie. The motif is that Gerald wants to join his fellow sea lions sunbathing on a rock, but as soon as he approaches, they forcefully bark him off. It seems my feelings are validated, since I’m not the first to comment on how the other sea lions interact with him:

  • The Blog on Huffington Post: “The One Glaring Problem with ‘Finding Dory'”
  • zap2it: “Did ‘Finding Dory’ mock autism with Gerald the sea lion?”
  • USA Today: This article is more complimentary and notes that “‘Gerald eventually has his day.'” However it also mentions that he’s aware there’s a “‘playground pecking order.'”

Loop Source: The Blog on Huffington Post

Gerald’s scene stealing is altogether short, so I’m not saying that it detracted too much from the likability of the story. It hasn’t caused an outright backlash on the scale of the ire caused by Tilda Swinton’s casting in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, so no one’s calling anyone, for lack of a more descriptive word, “butt-hurt,” yet. It is surprising that Pixar included this “you can’t play with us”-type scene though.

I share the same worry as some of the above and other article authors that today’s kids, who’ll likely have a stronger bond with Finding Dory than its predecessor, may watch Gerald getting bullied (playfully or not) and decide that since it’s all in jest, it’s okay. Obviously, it’s not. I hope that kids (or adults!) don’t kick the Gerald in their lives off the rock.

Maybe I react this way because at some points of my life, and come to think of it anyone else’s life, we have been the Gerald or had a friend who was. He’s a little different in appearance, personality, and maybe mental ability from everyone else. When I started pursuing figure skating seriously as a tween, I was a little heavier set than everyone else. I wasn’t into the same celebrities, and I preferred Japanese rock over Justin Bieber any day. (He’s okay now.) I felt the exclusion that comes with a clique not willing to let you in, and it hurt my self-esteem at the time. There wasn’t any sea lion barking, but there were side glances, which are just as poisonous to a tweenaged girl.


As for the rest of Finding Dory, we all know the expectations for it were incredibly high, and the movie as a whole impressed me for the technical advances in animation and creative storyline. At times maybe a bit too creative, as I found it hard to imagine a whale shark jumping out of its tank and back into the ocean…

whale shark and diver
Source: Tiger Quoll’s Photobucket.

But the overall pieces fit into the ending so well that I was taken by surprise when the dots all connected. I can’t imagine the number of ways that were brainstormed for how to find Dory, but I sincerely loved what they came up with. Have you seen her yet?

Humor Me: I’m a fan…

I realize that by publishing this revelation to the internet, it will always be attributable to me, but there’s no need to hide this anymore. You’ve also probably had a long hard week and deserve a good laugh, no? Well I have, so here goes.

As I was doing some digital spring cleaning, I came across a word file titled simply, “JA.”

“JA”? Whatever could this be? I clicked it open and pretended to myself for the briefest second that I didn’t remember exactly what this was about.

Ah, yes, this was my two-chapter long piece of fan fiction about an original character I created (that’s “OC” in fan-fic terminology) and her romance with a character named Jack Atlas. If you remember a little cartoon series called Yu-Gi-Oh, you might not have known about (or even been in the target demographic for) an offshoot called Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s! In it, you’ll find this studly character with dangerously spiky blonde hair.

brooding jack atlas
Those studs. Those spikes. That brooding.

Some people are infatuated with Ryan Gosling. Chris Hemsworth. Chris Pratt. Chris Rock. You know, the usual fare. Oh no, that wasn’t enough for me. I had a crush on a cartoon character! They don’t get more inaccessible than that.

You may ask, what did I see in this character to develop a crush so strong that I wrote an embarrassing Harlequin-paperback-type story in which I, through an OC, lived out my cartoon fantasy? Honestly, I can’t tell you. The character is brash and arrogant. He’s the equivalent of today’s esports star backed by corporate sponsorships. …Okay, that’s still a bit out there, so think of him as the Lionel Messi of a dueling card game.

I can’t lead you on like this without providing some juicy bits from my actual fan-fic, so as promised, see below for the hilarity. Some background, my original character’s name is Hana, and she studies piano performance at Edelweiss, a school I also made up for the fic. Jack the “King” has ascended to the top of the card game competitors’ circle, and Hana is a childhood friend turned girlfriend. When Jack left their poor childhood home to become a star, he convinced Hana to follow along, but her heart may still belong to…Yusei, a different childhood friend!

Today, she had neither the energy nor inclination to argue, so she simply sat and laid her head back on the white leather couch and listened to her MP3 player, a gift from the ‘King’ himself.”

MP3 player? Well, at least we know I didn’t write this too recently.

His words pierced her core; he knew and had seen her depressed and indignant when she wanted to just give up caring for her sisters and her dreams. Her watery eyes released some of the tears she had harbored for so long, hidden from almost everyone.

Just look at that diction. Indignant. Harbored. Pierced!!

“Yes, I am. And don’t start–,” he put two fingers against her lips, “with that betrayal story.”
She shook his hand away, “Then what do I do?”
“Nothing. Except know that I will protect you.”

Fingers, against, lips! The p-word! Sigh, I think I could have been Stephenie Meyer had I kept going.

“Yusei. Yusei I’m so sorry! I really am. You have no ide-” She didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence because he had swiftly wrapped her up in his arms.

(wheeze) (rolling on floor) (laughing or crying can’t tell)

“Yes, I did, and I still do. And I will always care about you. Even if Jack does win you over, I will always be here to catch you when he lets you down.”
‘I love you too much to let that ever happen.’ Yusei thought.

I don’t make this stuff up. Okay technically, I did.

Bolstered by the Beyhive

Here’s something crazy. I had tickets for Beyonce’s Formation tour that stopped in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, and I almost didn’t go.

What?

Yes. I almost didn’t go because I didn’t want to go alone. Stupid, right? Granted, parking fees at the Rose Bowl could deter anyone, but once you’ve spent upwards of $200 on a ticket, you shouldn’t be pre-occupied with that marginal cost.

I acknowledge that I didn’t have to go alone. I could’ve asked my new friends in LA if they wanted to go. I could’ve broadcast my intentions on Facebook and gathered a group to buy tickets together. I could’ve done all these things, but I just didn’t feel like they’d happen, whether due to scheduling snafus or their general disinterest.

I was prepared to feel alone in LA. It’s a sprawling metropolis, and everyone’s busy with their own lives. I still haven’t made a ton of friends here, and those I can call new friends, I don’t know very well yet. I’m doing my best to change that though.

As a consequence, I leaned on my friends from high school a lot. When I needed to complain, and it happens more often than I’m proud of, they were the ones who got my Facebook messages or texts. (Side note: I should buck the millennial stereotype and call people more…) Over time, I began to take for granted how much negativity a person could take, no matter how close of a friend they are to you. I was using my friends as “trash cans,” if you will. And that outweighs any success I feel like I’ve managed in my first year as an adult. (By “success,” I mean paying my bills on time and managing my road rage.)

Ironically, it is one of these very friends who slapped verbal sense into me and encouraged me to go to the concert. I’m very glad I did.

Beyonce’s set, a giant LED-covered cube that opened and closed to reveal her and her dancers, projected her magnificence so that everyone in the stadium could see. The guys behind me abandoned their chill and turned into blubbering fangirls.

beyonce singing
Queen in action.

At first, I felt self-conscious as a solo attendee sandwiched between drunk middle-aged women gal pals and a son and his (probably confused) father. I wanted to bop along to Snoop’s surprise performance of “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” I wanted to go crazy and wave my arms and scream, “Yas, yas, YAS!” But I was alone, and I contained my crazy.

I spotted another girl a few rows in front of me, who I later realized was also attending the concert alone. Carefree and decidedly not self-conscious, she jammed along to the beats. Suddenly, I felt silly. I had thought all along that I would be one of the minority coming alone, but right there was another example.

Bolstered by the Beyhive around me, I started letting loose during “Run the World (Girls).” And then Beyonce delivered just what I needed that night.

beyonce formation tour
Benelovent queen Bey.

She spoke about being there for yourself and loving yourself first, and then…

“Me myself and I, that’s all I got in the end, that’s what I found out and there ain’t no need to cry…”

She is an omniscient queen indeed.

Humor Me: Customer Service Struggz

I’m currently about 30 minutes into my estimated wait time of 60 minutes to get help from FTD, a floral and gift delivery service. (Bon Jovi said it best, “Whoa, we’re halfway there, whoa-oah! Living on a prayer!”) I ordered flowers for Mother’s Day, and they were supposed to arrive yesterday. Maybe they’ll arrive today, I thought. Most unfortunately, the latest they say they can deliver is until 9pm, and in my mom’s time zone, it’s past that time.

This is the only occasion I ever need to order flowers. But needless to say, I’m wishing I just ordered something off of Amazon Prime like I usually do. I am so sorry, Prime. I forsook you, and now I’m being punished for it. I see the error of my ways. It won’t happen again. Please accept my humblest apologies.

The old, well technically, younger, me would be slamming my pantry and refrigerator doors as I scrounge for snacks to munch on while I wait. But no, I’m enlightened now after four years of higher education and a lifetime of learning social conventions. Instead I’m channeling my frustration into a creative outlet. Look, ma, no hard feelings!

I actually have some thoughtful feedback for whoever wrote the recorded messages that chime in at spaced out interludes of the calming elevator music. For some reason, it sounds like the same music that plays during the Cars ride at Disneyland. I could be delusional at this point though. Lucky for FTD, I love that ride.

“Nothing says ‘I care’ more than an FTD floral arrangement. That’s because our FTD florists put the greatest care and the freshest flowers into each beautiful design…they know that you’re not just sending flowers, you’re sending a personal message to someone very special.”

I would argue that “nothing says you care” like answering my customer service call in less than an hour. (Sorry Bon Jovi, we overshot, now we’re more than the whole way there.) Can I be someone very special, too, FTD?

“Thanks for your patience. In consideration of your time, we encourage you to visit our website at FTD.com for fast and easy online ordering. Otherwise, please hold…”

Are you kidding me? How about starting with, “Thank you for your patience. We know you have better things to do with your time, but rest assured that we’ll be assisting you shortly.” Most likely I’ve ordered from your site already, which is why I’m even on the phone right now.

“It’s easy. It’s convenient. FTD.com is here to serve you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’re ready and waiting to assist you wherever and whenever you need to get that perfect gift. Whether you’re at home, or in the office, at 2pm, or 2am…”

I guess 24 hours a day is the average because I’ve already been holding for an hour. I just don’t understand how customer service for flowers could take this long. 🙁 Wait, do I have a better chance of my call getting answered in a reasonable amount of time if I call at 2am?


After an hour and 15 minutes, my call was ultimately answered. And then?

“Got it. Let me just put you on hold for a brief second, okay?”

Guess how many seconds it’s been?

Script Bits | This is why (AI)’m here

Hello, dear reader!

Lately I’ve been in a bit of a work rut, feeling very junior and such, so I troll the web for inspiring profiles about founders and makers creating incredible things, often in the tech space. As an avid layman follower, I am deeply intrigued by artificial intelligence (AI) developments and their implications for the future. Common images that come to mind are of a terrifying I, Robot situation or a “romance with a robot” in films like Her and Japanese manga Absolute Boyfriend. My script bit is the product of my wondering what an interaction with a device (friend?) more sophisticated than today’s Amazon’s Alexa would be like. I hope you enjoy it.

AI appreciate it,

J

Script Bits | To like or to <3?

Hello, dear reader!

reactions
Source: bbc.co.uk

If you’ve used Facebook at all lately, you’ll notice that you have been empowered with five new reaction options. Sad, angry, haha, wow, and of course, a <3 — I see you, Facebook, making use of that Instagram acquisition. The first entry in my “scripted reality” series is this short, humorous script that delves into the heads of Facebook’s original target audience, college students, and their interactions with the new buttons. And their interactions with each other, kind of. As always, appreciate your read in lieu of taking another Buzzfeed quiz. (If you’re taking it at the same time, I understand and thank you anyway.)

<3,

J

An Economic Life: Un(der)employed Talent

As with any first love, figure skating never truly left me. Or rather, I never really left it. Every four years I sometimes morph into a pretend pundit for the edification and entertainment of my friends, who are gracious enough to listen to my commentary. However, I’ve had other suitors foisted on me before, by my own parents no less.

Male parent threw out a thought, “What about trying equestrian or golf?”

And I appropriately responded with, “Huh?”

I say appropriate because I had never expressed an interest in either of these activities before. I loved unicorns as much as the next 90’s kid who collected Lisa Frank stationery, I was devastated to be over the socially (and physically) permissible age to ride a pony, but equestrian is serious, no rainbows or ponies allowed. And need I say more about golf?

I would hear him out, since I understood that there must be a rationale. After all, as an accountant in his former life, numbers and logic always had to add up.

“You’re going to be in high society someday, and people in those circles do things like that. You didn’t like tennis, but it’s not too late for these sports.”

My dad was being gracious, for my tennis instructor knew I wasn’t going to be his Li Na after the first lesson. We respected each other’s time and parted ways amicably. My figure skating coach was not so lucky; I stuck around for almost a decade.

My dad continued his explanation, my mom nodding. (Though she likely masterminded broaching the topic.) “If you’re good at golf, you’ll have the respect of other businesspeople and then you can build relationships on the golf course.”

He offered some optionality, another fork in his reasoning. “Equestrian is more athletic though, so maybe you’d enjoy that more. And we live in Texas. There must be somewhere to learn.”

At this point I understood him completely. This was all coming from the same place that prompted him to shut down a passing joke from his colleague that I should start hostessing where they both worked. “She’s not going to work in a restaurant like me.”

Like me. There was a lot embedded in those words.

Like me, who used to be an accountant in one of the best hospitals in Shanghai. Like me, who may have been more than blue-collar middle-class in a country that could be hospitable at times and hostile at others. Like me, who may have become one of those businesspeople playing golf. Like me, who didn’t and who will not let his child feel that she belongs anywhere but in “high society.”

Fortunately, no one in my family has been unemployed for long, but perhaps worse is being underemployed in a job whose requirements one’s education or skills may surpass. (Don’t start about millennial baristas, don’t.) My parents didn’t let it show much, but it would’ve described their status accurately. However, the way they dressed and carried themselves betrayed their convictions that they were of a more “sophisticated” class. (This is also admittedly a side-effect of being Shanghainese; you can verify this with people familiar with the personalities of China’s regions.) On weekend outings with my family, you would never guess that they were waiters. 

I’ve picked up many of my dad’s mannerisms in particular. Regardless of his day job, he wanted to look and talk like a boss. Stand tall, shoulders down, speak clearly, show ‘em wass-up. (Latter is entirely my addition.)

Source: adeekt.fr
Source: adeekt.fr

Of course, I acknowledge these are all my hypotheses, but I have gathered enough data points to feel confident. These examples aside, my parents proved their executive abilities were as good as any F500 CEO’s by running a household while working long hours. My dad was particularly proud of his neat record and bookkeeping, true to his accountant past. He would use his former training where he could in his life now.

I can’t say for sure, but I guessed that my college admissions provided non-insignificant vindication for years of feeling insecure or inadequate compared to other family and friends. They opted to start waiting in a restaurant immediately instead of trying to redo their education here, but at least I was on the path to joining “high society.” And with a tidy office job now, it would seem that way. Seem!

Without a doubt, I will “disappoint” my parents in one way. I am still not interested in golf, and being thrown off a horse could end any further career I have, equestrian or otherwise.

I prefer to write dinky little blogs.

—–
Thanks for reading! This is the fifth in my series “An Economic-ish Life,” where I write to educate and entertain while attempting to remember and apply my liberal arts education. 🙂 And yes, the series title has changed.