Monday, March 20, 2017


So its here, after all the online back and forth, Iron Fist has hit netflix... I am not in love with Marvel's choice to ignore the call to make Danny Rand Asian American or Hapa.  To me it was a brilliantly thoughtful way to to take a really cheesy and trope filled story and make it work for a much more sophisticated audience.  

but that is all past.  We have our White Danny Rand.  it comes at a particularly auspicious time in the wake of the problematic casting of Tilda Swinton as E.T. ... I mean  THE ANCIENT ONE"  in Dr. Strange, with Matt Damon's also awful GREAT WALL, and the ramping up of Scarlett Johansen's GHOST IN THE SHELL. 

I figured I need to watch it.  One because I have been a big fan of all the previous Marvel/Netflix adaptations, and I am curious to see what story threads they continue to lay out leading up to the DEFENDERS cross over next year,  but all I figure, If Imma shit on somethin' I better look and make sure that the toilet seat is down...  

So here goes.  what follows are my unedited, immediate responses to Marvel's Iron Fist Episodes 1... 

I also kept my pad out as I watched through the whole series, but after a while, I just couldnt be witty anymore.  Character choices were so frustrating, writing was just awful... and It just made me tired, I nodded off in places,  or it just stopped being funny and more laborious to get through... 


Opening credits... what is with the music... Sounds like they re purposed some of Daft Punks Tron Score... is Iron Fist on the Grid??

Oh god, so they went with the typical Kwai Chang Kane "no shoes" bit... "I ... walk... this earth... I seek a man... the man... who stole ... my shoes!"

Already he's douchey.  Maybe if you actually introduced yourself to people instead of playing up the "i'm inscrutable like an Asian Person trapped in a hippie white kids body" thing

First fight... no stance and kind of flailing. Is this aikido cause it ain't Kung Fu! And really, he had to kick the elevator button?  Wouldnt it be faster/more efficient to dispose your enemy , lock the door and then hit the elevator door... with your hand?

So clearly we've met a villian, or at least you want us to think hes the villian cause youre trying SO HARD to make him an asshole, could you be telegraphing any more?

Acting is awful.

Next time I see my Sifu, I need to ask at what sash level you need to be to learn the "hypnotize animal" style that every movie martial artist seems to have mastered.  

Oh so the first scene with Adult Meechum  wasn't obvious enough, so clearly we need to see dickish teenage Meechum bully young Danny over a game of monopoly? WE GET IT!  Meechum is a cold hearted corporate guy! Even at Monopoly!

So Danny's had this iPod all this time... I wonder how he charged it in the temple at KunLun?  maybe he charged it with his Chi? and really he plays hip hop music every time he meditates?  

"Big al?" Seriously?  why dont any of the Alberts I ever met through life add adjectives to their name?

Big Al, Offers stolen Cell Phone to Danny Rand: "Hey, do you want some clunky story exposition...? Before this stolen phone gets shut off?"

Danny Rand tells Big Al "A lot of people must think I'm like you"... The first person who is nice to Danny and he immediately insults him by insinuating he's better than him? WORST. MONK. EVER!

Shouldn't Danny Rand have a Tibetian Accent after living there the last 15 years?  Or did the ancient Mystical other dimensional Tibetan Monks that only have contact with our world every 7 years speak english? 

Joy Meetchum threatens Danny Rand that her driver is also her armed guard?! Why don't you just go inside till your "armed guard" gets here in stead of standing on the street with this transient stalker?

Bad tad chi with flailing hands, no stance, no center.

Coleen wing... if some hippie white guy comes and starts randomly speaking in mandarin to to an Asian American woman, the woman will scowl at The douchiest, sinophile pickup line EVER!   And she'd be totally peeved because she gets this ALL THE TIME! She is immediately a non believable character.

Another scene with evil corporate Meetchum guy... just what we need , more clunky exposition. It's like corporate bad guy can only speak in run on sentences...

Meetchum and Danny at the Car Valet... A street urchin you think is trying to undermine your business steals your car... "well... I guess I better get in then..."

Where did Danny learn to drive, you were 10?!... 
(a moment later) 
wait you learned to drive a stick from driving on your dads lap?  Pretty good instincts on that clutch I guess...

Gun in the glove compartment?= evil corporate asshole guy

Danny, Maybe you should have led with all the specific memories that only you and your childhood friends would remember...

Hunter gatherers did not live to 70's

Oh shit he's quoting Buddha...

More clunky exposition... we get it, Coleen wing is poor...

Coleen wing, so not only is he a creepy sinophile but now he insulted your Dojo... and this barfooted asshole just tracked ringworm on to your mats?...

Coleen wings super power? "I can tell a man's shoe size by one look!"

He's attacked in the street, and suddenly he's doing capoeria? what the hell style does he do anyways cause Ive seen akkido, and now Capoeria?

Also, evil henchmen guy, let's walk all the way past your target and wait for him to stand up before you attack him.. cause like why would I smack him when he's sitting down and not looking up?

And more clunky exposition... "Wait, youre the security guard from the office!?" because clearly the audience can't recognize the same one black guy in the whole episode...

You had minions with guns, but you decided to lead waiting for him to stand up to try hitting him with a stick?

Why is it that everytime white people go to Chinatown it happens to be Chinese new year? Do white people think we live in a perpetual state of Chinese new year? Like its just a year round party with out door grilling and dragon dances?  I wonder if in China every time the main characters visit white people if they always have christmas trees?

Since when did Chinese new year become a rave with all these flashy light sticks and bubbles?

Cause you know, everyone wears Chinese opera masks all the time... didn't you know, Chinese new year is like Asian Dia de Los muertos...

Well, if I'm gonna wear a monkey king mask I guess I'll have to do monkey Kung Fu... Uh what's that like? Just means I like stand on one leg when I punch and stuff right? ugh... so sloppy!

That dragon dance must be really engrossing that NOONE notices a fight break out in the middle of a crowd...

"Who sent you?" You already recognized him as Meetchum's security guard?! Are you dense?

So Meetchum's father faked his death?!

What the hell?

Rand corporation has the worst security ever... he just walked right in the front door... AGAIN

It's episode 2... why are we starting with more clunky exposition?!

You knew what a jet fuselage was at age 10? 

Colleen wing, you carry a practice Kendo stick  around with with you in daily life? 

Hahahha! "What are you doing... yoga!?" thats your big motivating insult to your karate students? and how come you get to carry a stick and they dont? And really, youre training  your students to ambush you in public? who Are you, Inspector Clusoe? 

Why is Meetchum sending younger Meetchum to question Colleen wing?  Its not like hes identifiable or the public head of a major corporation or anything

Oh god he s chanting Oh Mani Padmi now... 

They are just pushing this whole meetchum is evil thing hard!.

What is up Withh the little intern toadie?

God his tai chi is so bad. No balance, 

She s sending him m&ms... who is he ET?

M&M's drive her to tears?!! hahahah

acting is awful,I'm starting to tune out....

3rd episode
Tiger is not an internal style, tiger is an aggressively external style!!

And really you're gonna lecture another master about your styles? Talk about offensive

He shows up on her doorstep, meditating, with fruit and incense as if the stoop was an alter... and then you sit in the middle of that alter as if all those offerings were for YOU? WTF? And what the fuck is this Buddhist tradition bullshit... who the hell shows up on someone's doorstep with an incense burner, and offerings of oranges and puts themselves in the middle of that?

Carrie Ann moss is a cold hearted bitch attorney,  But her shutting down Danny Rand's illogic is refreshing!  She speaks how I feel! 

Oh god... he's teaching a bunch of Kendo students HIS Technique?  you do not just walk in to someone elses school, where they teach some other style than yours and just start telling them how to do stuff your way! 
... second, what the hell is with his sword work! No balance, what is his left hand doing, that Kendo stick is simulating a single bladed two handed sword, he's using it like its a single handed, double bladed sword? ... and he's a kung-fu practitioner, what does he know of dojo etiquette... dojo s are Japanese...

Oh man, he's sleeping on the floor? Seriously...I mean do white people really eat this shit up?

He walks in just as the guy is about to set fire to the hospital records...
And you're telling me there are no fire extinguishers in a hospital?

I don't even have anything witty to say about this cage fight... it's just stupid awful

Colleen wing cage fight #2... I'm not even sure what style she is... she seemingly teaches Japanese Kendo, but when she trains by herself she uses a Chinese wooden dummy, It looks like shes trying to do Southern Chinese Wing Chun, but she has no angles, or stance work and she punches like Korean style.  When she cage fights she does some weird Hollywood fake mma with the occasional random fake wu shu flourish ... I just dont understand.

"We axe gang challenge you Danny Rand"

Close quarters fight in elevators.sloppy, noone has any impact

Oh good, it's The "triad run out of a chinese restaurant" trope! Never seen that before!

Triad boss: "So...guys, you just botched a hit on a woman using hatchets... wanna eat?"

And now apparently Danny Rand makes random japanese origami for people...? is that supposed to be flirting?

Let me get this straight.evil Meechum father can have cameras placed in high security mental institution to trace Danny Rand, but he hasn't seen his daughter in years?

What the hell, Buddhists don't say "grace" like that.. You dont thank Buddha for stuff!   

OK great... it's bad enough with all the dog and cat meat jokes Asian Americans have to contend with... let's start a whole thing about donkeys why don't we...

Wing- "They have machine guns!"
Danny - "Yeah, the haven't the faintest idea how to fight..."
...sigh... Seriously?

Is it just me or in every series does it rain when Night Nurse shows up... does she just bring rain with her wherever she goes?

So the Chinese Madam Gao (Formerly established as the leader of the triads) is now the lead representative for the Japanese ninja army known as "the hand?" I don't get it...

(At this point I'm either falling asleep, or just getting tired, bored by plodding storytelling) 
Episode 6

What's with the sexy spider lady? or evil sexy acupuncturist?

Episode 8
First time I've seen someone who actually knew some Kung Fu, and it's a random female guard who carries a sword instead of a gun?

Evil Chinese door man with Irish accent doing drunken style, INFINITELY more interesting than any of the heroes

Worst special ops ever. Taken out by a registered nurse, a sickly poisoned martial artist, and a hippie white kid... you'd think they'd use those guns they carry...

And then I pretty much stopped.... cause It just took so much effort to keep my attention on it... 


the problem here is the source material ultimately is Wildly flawed in its white savior narrative. 

(White guy goes to Mystical mysterious fictional Asia and becomes better at Asian Things than all Asian people. Comes back and is all mystically changed by Ancient Chinese Secrets... this is colonialist bullshit. Its insulting, and its lazy storytelling because it requires a member of dominant culture to some how artificially "Become" the other)

So much of the plodding story got weighed down by having this white guy doing weird "exotic" "Asian" Things... and it wasnt even like real asian things, it was really nonsensically weird fake asian things... because REAL weird Asian things are really not that weird.  So they get so caught up in making things SOOO Exotically different they start writing themselves in to holes.

It forced them in to some really clunky exposition at almost every turn. At first I thought it was because they didnt trust the audience to understand what was going on... and as it kept happening I started to feel like it was because they themselves didnt know what was going on.  They kept feeling the need to justify plot actions by explaining it, over and over.

In this telling, I really dont know what the point of Danny Rand is...  his internal struggle, his character motivations seem to be like just straight up revenge at first? Or "look how weird I am with my adopted cultural ways", or "I just have to do this! It has to be Me!"  Theres something a touch refreshing in that he's kind of naive...  until he does things that are just straight up stupid, thoughtless or childish.  and then he gets kind of annoying.  Towards the end of the season, I found myself really wanting, NEEDING Rosario Dawson to be around, because every scene shes in she is basically throwing her hands in the air going "What the fuck is up with you guys and your crazy bad decisions?!!"  She speaks how we ALL feel... 

Also now the evil ninja Army of the Hand is apparently a multi cultural army? which, I guess... but it suffers from  something that I think is a problem across the board for Iron Fist.  the less specific everything is, the more you try to mask the cultural appropriation, and the problematic themes of the source material, the less personal all of the storytelling gets. 

 I keep coming back to the Nerds of Color suggestion of making Danny rand Asian American...  

His upbringing in Kun Lun after his mixed family's deaths in the plane accident become allegorical to what every Asian American knows all too well in having to live down Western trappings of the expectations imposed on anyone with a weighty cultural background and cultural legacy, in contrast with who he is, which is an American Born Kid who spent the first 10 years of his life in privilege. Finding the balance of both worlds, to define himself as who he is for himself becomes central to his character and what drives him. The revision contextualizes and personalizes his struggle... . "Who Am I" and "where do I belong" "I dont fit in here or there, and I have conflicting values, expectations, priorities from here and there" or "how do I define my place within the legacies that have been handed off to me" become central themes to the series.

the argument from many Marvel traditionalists was that Danny rand needs to be a fish out of water... to which my response was... YES, Most Asian Americans live that story daily, where you arent Asian Enough for Asians, and youre not white looking enough for most Americans.  

then there was the complaint that an Asian Danny Rand would be a stereotype of an Asian Martial Artist.  to which I would say, no, he would be a lead character martial Artist, with a plot and story that focuses on his humanity, as opposed to a supporting or bit role that focuses on his skill-set, He'd only be a stereotype if, well, you wrote him like a stereotype. 

Oh the Iron Fist that could have been... ugh...  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Excuse me as I rave... (an blog review of VIETGONE by Qui Nguyen at South Coast Repertory Theatre)

I just got home after seeing a preview of VIETGONE by Qui Nguyen at South Coast Rep, so take in to account that what I saw was pre-opening, "not review ready." That said... the show blew me away! 

I first encountered Qui's writing while directing a staged reading of "SHE KILLS MONSTERS (THE ADVENTURERS EDITION)" for Artists at Play in Los Angeles last year. The play was shamelessly geeky, but also touching, tragic, and irreverent. 
I was impressed with his knack for dialogue, and skill at turning a play around on a dime from ridiculous hilarity, to sharp pointed emotional drama, and back again. His writing is kind of a roller-coaster that way, allowing for great theatricality and very human stories with flawed, lovable characters who carry their pain but are never weighed down by it.
I fell in love with SKM and saw a lot of the same skill and deft storytelling in VIETGONE tonight... And after this, I'm just gonna say it... Qui Nguyen is my theatre spirit animal!!!
VIETGONE is a non linear, retelling of how his mother and father met in the shadow and aftermath of the Vietnam War... But it is truly a REtelling and not a telling. It is an interpretation of the events in 1975 as told to the playwright and interpreted through his own contemporary lens. Through that lens, the typical, weighty "immigrant Refugee" story of ones parents that we often see in Asian American literature is vibrantly transformed in to a hip, witty, irreverent and touching narrative that surprises at every turn.
We are not phased when characters break in to hip hop spoken word when their emotions over take them. We are not phased when 70's slang, or perhaps Vietnamese accented English is replaced with contemporary or street vernacular. Qui's parents swear with the affable, streetwise voices of contemporary, smart, middle class, educated mixed up 20-30 something New Yorkers. Not because they actually were, but because thats who Qui, the playwright is and how he makes you see his parents from their own perspective.
There is no affectation of what it is to be foreign or other, but rather what it is to be in a place that is foreign. The "American" characters they encounter speak in broken English. We watch them adjust to the strangeness of their new life as refugees, we watch them make the realization that they have gone from the middle class citizens they were back home in Vietnam, to becoming "the Chinese" (referring to the poor and disenfranchised "immigrants laborers" they looked down on back home before the war) Its subversive subtleties like these that pepper throughout the play that create relatability through a spoonfull of sugary crass humor that enlightens while it satarizes.    
They muddle through this experience and eventually find temporary comfort in mutually casual sex, and its steamy and scintillating in all those ways you dont want to imagine your parents having sex. But its also very human and flawed and real. There are no clean story book romances here, just messy, complicated relationships when damaged people find intimacy on accident.
Perhaps they shouldn't be together. Perhaps they are too haunted by baggage more traumatizing than many of us could ever grasp, But they are not victims of war, they are survivors of war with scars that run deep. Their roots are showing and there is no way to regain "normal," There is only the option to build a new normal which is tragic in and of itself. And it is hilarious and sexy and ridiculous and gut-wrenchingly touching watching them make this journey.
The cast of five are efficient, the leading couple carrying their character arcs through as the other 3 bounce through multiple characters as grounded as the father's war buddy best friend, and as wacky as the Ninja back up army that protect a biker his dad got in to a brawl with at a bar (the playwright assures us this is the truth as the story was told to him).  The ensemble is deft and light while allowing the scars of loss just beneath the surface to inform much of the raucous humor.  
Its just an all around wonderful show and thats all I can say. 

Its always a point of frustration when I see theatre that really touches me because often there really are no words for it when someone's storytelling makes you feel, viscerally. I'll write about it, I'll tell people about it, but it doesn't encapsulate the emotion of "YOU ALL NEED TO SEE THIS, EXPERIENCE THIS FEEL THIS BECAUSE IT MADE ME LAUGH, IT MADE ME THINK, IT OPENED ME UP AND LEFT ME RAW IN PLACES AND UNDERSTAND THINGS I WOULDNT HAVE OTHERWISE AND THATS IMPORTANT!!" 
With theatre it often feels even more urgent more tragic because theres no DVD or blu-ray. Its a play with a limited run, It will close and that experience will remain momentary and so easy to miss and hard to share with others... To add insult to injury its in Costa Mesa, a city thats equally far from friends in San Diego and friends in LA.
So all I can say is... LA People, San Diego People, its worth the drive. 
If you get the chance, GO SEE this!


When: Previews begin October 4th. Regular performances Friday through Oct. 25; 7:45 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays (no 7:45 p.m. performances Oct. 25).
Where: Julianne Argyros Stage, South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
How much: General admission is $22-$53 for previews, $30-$77 for regular performances. Prices vary by date and curtain time; discounts for seniors, students under 25 with ID and educators with ID
Call: 714-708-5555

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

On the Mikado, Yellowface, and Gilbert and Sullivan.... (Again)

So Mikado is back in the news again... Yellowface is back in the news...  again and honestly, it is so exhausting that this is back up, that I'm having this same conversation... Initially I was like, "you know, I dont want to talk about Mikado any more... I dont want to talk about Yellowfacing the Gilbert and Sullivan classic anymore, I'm just exhausted by it.  I'm not engaging in any comment threads, I'm not posting about it I just am too demoralized by it coming back up AGAIN, to even engage...

But A friend asked me to comment, and it makes you go, "If I dont comment, then the perspective is not seen." and like Don Corleone, it just keeps pullin ya back in... 

see, even though I appreciate the discussion, and the questions and Im glad for them cause it means people are opening their minds and their empathy for that bit of time to recognize their own privilege,,.  and I really do appreciate that.   It just gets so frustrating that it happens so often and that a culture of so called "color blindness"  also blinds people to the marginalizing effects of misrepresentation... and the systemic brings. but I accept it cause I kinda have to...  Its a daily everyday part of my life... so here we go... 


Heres the thing... if its about making fun of British people and British society, then make them British. If you want to fictionalize a British society in order to criticize its social trappings, and point out the inherent foolishness of their cultural order, then the best thing to do to serve the storytelling and our modern context that is unfamiliar with 100+ year old British high society and focus the storytelling on what the play is supposedly about., then you should put them in tails and bowler hats and mustaches and corsets. That just makes sense narratively. 

Then you got to ask yourself, if these characters have made up nonsensical names that resemble no culture on earth, but sound like a euphemism for defecation, if they have fictional buffoon like characteristics that are caricatures of people not resembling actual people or cultures, then why or what is the attachment to making them distinctly Japanese-esque?

What is it about making them Japanese and making Japanese-ness into this extreme, wacky "other" so important to the story? 

If the story is more effective because "those oriental people are so wierd" then you have a problem! 

If its effective because "Japanese are so different and that difference makes our social commentary innocuous because that way we're not offending the any normal people" then thats a problem. 
if its because "it was traditionally written as a representation of what Japanese people are actually like" thats definitely a problem. 
If its cause the "costumes are pretty" then not only is that a problem, it also doesn't serve the story, not to mention its pretty dehumanizing in that you're basically just saying "we wanna skin the Japanese people and wear them cause its fashionable." 

At the end of the day, the real reason why G&S decided to write a critique of British class structure and set it in a mythical Japan that looks more like Dr. Suess is because at the time, people saw Asians as bizarre, inhuman, savage and inherently hilarious. The aesthetic is more about otherness for a laugh than it is about understanding or exchange of an actual culture and that is not about political correctness.  Its just plain ol period specific racist hate speech. 

Now I do not hold this against G&S, it was just the point of view at the time...  It is a period piece after all... But theoretically, we've had 100+ years to know better and to figure out how to make this ancient story work in the present day..., (That is why we don't do minstrel plays anymore and we have women playing Female roles when we do Shakespeare instead of young boys playing women as men wanted them to be.... Somehow, its harder for us to carry over this sense of empathy over tradition to Asians and Asian Americans and that is where I challenge all of us to ask... "WHY is that?"  How are you and the rest of our society and culture a victim to these age old tropes about Asians and Asian-ness that it does not grant me the benefit of your empathy the way it does women and African Americans?)

NOW, to next level this..., every time we get in to Mikado played in Yellow face, the first question I ask is, "Well how many Asian people did they get involved?" (Which is usually very few. maybe one or two if that at all... at which point I ask internally, how many self respecting Asian or Asian American people even want to be involved with this crap unless the director has a vision that serves the story, and not the caricature. 

When I find out that no Asians show up to the auditions... I think "WELL, that should probably have been the first tell tale sign that theres something wrong with your show in 2015"

That said, G&S were brilliant. amazing songwriter/lyricist with a legacy of great work. Mikado is part of that. but with any classic you have to ask yourself "what makes this relevant to context of today that we should do it here and now? If you know your audience, then what new or universal meaning does this 100+ year old work have in today's context?" And if you're not asking that question, what kind of director are you? 

Against the backdrop of today where AAPI's have been shut down to only 4% of available new roles on broadway in the past few seasons, and where tv/film luminaries like Aaron Sorkin feel like adapting screenplays from properties based on real life Asian Americans are a waste of time because noone in their right mind will cast an Asian American Lead actor, and the remaining roles that AAPI actors do get are mostly two dimensional, stereotypical portrayals, that ultimately play in to all kinds of systemic exclusion of AAPI's.  For example, the low rates of promotion to executive and management positions despite high representation in say the tech industry. Multiple false accusations of espionage against American Citizens.  And of course, the politicians who rant anti immigrant rhetoric, inspire hate crimes, create a culture where AAPI public school students survey at the highest rate of bullying of all racial groups, and Asian American Women clocking in at statistically the highest rate of teen suicide amongst their peers. To me its not insignificant

No, one production of the Mikado is not gonna make people hate all Asians or Asian Americans, but it is symptomatic of a culture that systemically dehumanizes and belittles perceptions of AAPI's in our culture, and continues to disenfranchise them. 

That said, there have been great productions that used all Asian Casts that allowed for a more sensitive interpretation of the work.  I've seen all white Casts with period British style costumes that were great.  Another inspired production with a multi cultural cast that chose a cartoony Anime inspired aesthetic that played up the ridiculousness of the characters in a modern design aesthetic that was relevant to today's audience. These were Directorial concepts that served the work and the story in the context of contemporary life and sensibilities, vs lazy, trope filled, belittling, minstrel shows that race bait and are just plain awful and tired. 

At the end of the day, when I see these productions like the one at Skirball, I see carelessness, ignorance and sloppy storytelling that lead to really racist results. When I see these companies, I dont think anyone hates me or my Asian-ness, but I do see a bunch of people who are being part of the problem, and not the solution, in addition to just shoddy artistry. 

(so thats my rant... thanks for reading this far with an open mind...)

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Brad Bird is just great at what he does. 
I've been a fan of his since the oft overlooked animated classic IRON GIANT.  Most folks know him for Pixar's THE INCREDIBLES and RATATOUILLE.  But after proving his live action film-making chops on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE- GHOST PROTOCOL Disney has entrusted him to build a mythology behind one of the mainstays of every Disney Magic Kingdom Park with TOMORROWLAND.    

Visually his style is very apparent. A lot of impossibly kinetic motion contrasted by stark stillness, with great attention to pacing and pronounced character moments.

He's also great at capturing that old Spielberg esque sense of childish wonder that makes the film refreshing, and is the spoonful of sugar that drives the films heart and message.

All that said, it is a kids movie that targets an adult audience, so there are moments of story that are kinda spoon fed rather than revealed. And moments where they pretty much say straight out, " no were not going to explain this can we just move on with the story?"

That story which in it self is simple but engaging, particularly when framed with bird's knack for action. And the performances from Clooney and his two young counterparts are relatively one note, but really well delivered.(particularly the younger one who carries a mature wisdom about her) Their characters are designed to contrast and bounce off one another, and once the group is assembled, there's some really great chemistry that at times feels like it really shouldn't work, but really does...

Also, the vision for tomorrowland is glistening and serves as a call to action which reminds you of the the irony that is the disjointed showcase of brands that serves as the films namesake in the park. Sadly I still find it unlikely that Disney corporate will heed Brad Bird's call for a return to the hope, optimism, and innovation that inspired the old "World on the Move" Tomorrowland of 1977.  there are plenty of callbacks to the wonderful classic design aesthetic that fans of Bob Gur and the golden era of Imagineering will appreciate, plus some great nods to the industrial, steampunk inspired "Discoveryland" of Disneyland Paris... I loved these details!

The film serves very much like a refreshing glass of kool-aid to tide us over until someone lets Imagineering revise and reestablish the tomorrowland we all crave. And I'll hapily drink it... It's great fun! And all it really needs to be is fun.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Year in Review for a slightly OCDisney Nerd...

Okay, so I'm a Disney Nerd.  As a kid our family would go to the parks usually once a year.  There were a lot of good memories there.  Every night we would end at Carnation Plaza where we would see the some of the greats, like the Glenn Miller Orchestra play till the end of the night.  My dad taught all my sisters to swing dance to the sounds of the big bands that would inspire me to later pick up the saxaphone.

I was completely enthralled by the immersive environments, the attention to detail, and year after year I would collect the maps and study them profusely.  I would realize much later how much I learned about the essentials of story from experiencing the parks.  there was a logic, or what I would later come to understand as an "act structure" that would frame the experiences.  The experiential quality of the attractions would set the bar for me as a story teller, and establish why I prefer live theatre over other mediums.  Because immersion to me became that final element that made any story heightened.  the moment when the story could reach out and grab you, or swallow you whole.  

So when I was in college, I found myself as an actor often driving back and forth between LA and SD, and rather than sit in traffic I discovered it was far more efficient to wait out traffic in line for a ride or two.  sometimes I'd do my college reading along the rivers of America in the peaceful back end of the Hungry Bear restaurant in Critter Country.  It was handy and kind of cool to be an annual passholder.  So Cal passes were still pretty cheap then, and the Fan Blog communities were just kind of coming in to existence. As time went on I found myself collecting books about imagineers, absorbing random trivia.  My interest came full circle when after years of pursuing theatre, I realized how much I had retained from my child hood aspirations of being a sequential artist/animator.  Much of my staging theory is still heavily based on layout principals I had studied on my own in high school reading "how to draw Comics the marvel way" and growing up looking forward to the re-release of Fantasia or as the sole holder of a lifetime pass to the festival of animation... (thats an other story)

So of course upon moving to LA, It only made sense I finally upgrade my pass from the SoCal to the Premium.  I mean, I'm only about 30 minutes away... and 30 minutes is about a minimum drive time anywhere in LA anyways... I justified the cost in that I'm investing in my future career in imagineering... (oh it will happen... just wait...) 

AND because I'm crazy, I made a spreadsheet that would tally and record all my visits... because I knew that by the end of the year I'd probably wonder just how many times I actually rode Peter Pan, or how many Corn Dogs I managed to devour(no I didnt keep track of that... DAMN, new line item for next year!) so here for your entertainment value are my personal Disneyland resorts Stats for the 2013-2014 year...  
50 visits to the DL resort in 12 months

Average # of attractions per visit - 7.7

Most Attractions in a single visit - 21 (this particular day was a DL Only Day...)

In this year had two park-hopper days where I hit 19 total...  (Personal best 23 attractions in a single day)

Most CA Adventure attractions in a single day- 11

Most visits in a single month - 6

Fewest visits in a single month - 2

Favorite time to visit - July (tourists leave the park earlier and fewer Annual passholders leaves the last two hours of the night empty! You can basically walk on most attractions!)

46 Visits to Magic Kingdom
23 trips along the Disneyland Railroad (15 of which took me through the Primeval world)
27 trips into the Galaxy Far Far Away (no tallys as to how many times to each planet, I'll work on that fornext year...)
20 excursions into the Temple of the Forbidden Eye
19 Times to my Laughing Place
17 times I found a way out... (7 of which were guided by Sandy Claws)
16 of the wildest rides in the wilderness (despite being closed 60% of the year)
16 treks up and down the Swiss Alps (12 on the Left, 4 on the right)
13 Tales told by dead men
Only 3 Attractions I have not been on all year:
Gadgets Go-Coaster, Dumbo, King Arthurs Carousel, Mainstreet Streetcars

28 visits to CA Adventure
12 Drops into the 5th dimension
12 Screams
9 races (dont know how many I won, thats data for next year)
9 trips under the sea
7 Runs down the Grizzly river
7 soarin over california
Have not experienced anything else at the park more than 5 times

8 attractions I Did not experience all year
King triton's Carousel, Heimlich's Chew Chew Train, Tuck & Roll's Bumper Cars,
(5 of which I Have Never Been on) Disney Jr. Live on Stage, Francis' Ladybug Boogie,  Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, Jumpin Jellyfish, Flik's Flyers (Have Never ridden, however have always wanted a picture in the takeout box)

Thats my year in review! Clearly it would seem Star tours is my favorite (I mean c'mon... its Star Wars! Duh!) although Big Thunder may have beaten out Star tours had it not been down for renovation most of the year.  And Indiana Jones and Splash Mountain trail closely behind (Makes sense, all four are Tony Baxter driven E Tickets rides!)

Other Notable moments... 
On 9/29 I completed what I like to call a Straight Flush in Tomorrowland, thats where I do EVERYTHING that tomorrowland has to offer (10 attractions) Its actually tricker than it sounds particularly considering I ussually come to the parks later in the day. It also means forcing myself to do the Autopia as an adult.  

Other Straight Flushes I have yet to conquer: 
ALL of FantasyLand, (15 attractions, many of them Dark rides, with Mr Toad, and peter Pan often at a minimum of 45 Minute wait this is a very difficult challenge, plus I just cant motivate myself to ride Dumbo, or the teacups solo)

ALL of Westland s (Adventureland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country) 10 Attractions, I came close on 6/7th! If only Davy Crockett Canoes were open at night!

MOUNTAIN CLIMBER- EVERY Mountain ride (Big thunder, Splash, Materhorn, Space, Radiator Springs, and Grizzly River (Managed to get all the Disneyland Mountains once but not the California Adventure mountains for the complete set.  

E TICKET EXPERT - Its exactly what you think, ALL 12 E Ticket Coaster type rides, Indy, Splash, Big thunder, Materhorn (Left and Right) Space Mountain, Star Tours, Radiator Springs, California Screamin, Twighlight Zone, Goofy Sky School, grizzly River (I'm torn because technically Haunted Mansion and pirates I think were also E tickets.  And I'm not sure where Soarin would fall... 

RIVER MASTER - (10 Boats!)  Mark Twain, Sailing Ship Columbia, Canoes, Splash Mountain, Pirates, Jungle Cruise, Its a Small World, Storybook land, Submarines, Grizzly River

So yeah.... welcome to my crazy! 
If you have other ideas for challenges leave it in the comments! 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

There is not More then Meets the Eye... It just is what it is...

So, I saw it.  An act of pure masochistic self torture....  Its impressive how much it can exceed your expectations about how bad its gonna be.  Its impressive how much I could care about  these characters in-spite of the complete dirth of character development, and reductuve nature in which they are written and then I realized its that lack of development that made me care...  I kept wanting the characters to be more than what they were... like helplessly watching a puppy continuously run into an electric fence.

It is so impressively frustrating every time a scene chooses to focus on human characters who are the most uninteresting and pointless characters in the film. Its like going to a football game and being forced to watch spilled beer run down the stairs while the game goes on behind you.

And its too bad, one of the villains is actually a pretty great villain once you ignore the fact that noone understands why hes there... Theres an implication that is supposed to lead to a larger story thread, but it is so vague it fails to make his origins at all intriguing, or the implied breadcrumb mystery alluring...

For us fans and fans of animation voice actor veterans, Peter Cullen has a few great sound bytes... And Frank Welker gets a few brief moments to seethe out a couple good lines... John Goodman and Ken Watanabe are wasted... Characters who are set up to be totally capable and bad ass in one scene are rendered completely idiotic in the next for no reason.  And you know the film is trying to make you worry when they're in trouble cause they say "well... We're in trouble!"

Some of the action sequences are impressive and have some "ooh ahhhs" in between large swaths of just plain confusion... But after a while you just want everyone to stop yelling and talking over one another so you can try to figure out whats going on.  But they're no help, after all, A McGuffin is revealed so late in the film that you dont even have any time to revere or fear it! All of a sudden... its there and suddenly the most important thing.  But its okay its underdeveloped because it softens the blow of the zero payoff it has later on.  It doesnt leave you empty because you're still reeling from the slew of deux ex machinas that basically open up the third act "just 'cause."  Characters make  logic and emotional jumps as if they were tiggers... and the plot switched focus like a Roomba changes direction, slamming in to wall after wall every step of the way...

And yet it manages to somehow sate some deep part of my inner 8-year-old heart, while completely enraging and betraying it all at once.

Sadly, there is not more than meets the eye... it just is what it is...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

After the Nightingale... Whats the Next Step?

First of all, THANKYOU to everyone who attended the panel discussion last Sunday.  I was honored by the company I kept with AAPAC's Christine Toy Johnson, and Cindy Cheung, as well as my more local allies Seema Sueko, Lee Ann Kim, Bennet Peji, Greg Watanabe and Larry Baza.  And despite the LA times reporting attendance of only 150, I cannot express the feeling of seeing the 400+ seat Potiker Theatre filled to capacity.  I saw many old friends from throughout our national community, make a real impact just through their presence!  I also thank the artists who have been involved in the Nightingale who reached out to me privately and personally!  I cannot fathom the difficult position you have been placed in!

All that said, if you missed the panel, you may view it here:
I also encourage you to seek out some wonderful responses such as Jennifer Chang's Here:
or this passionate spoken word video here:

Its been interesting to watch everything unfold.  Many people are watching the video of the panel and reacting for the first time.  New posts, new blogs, new letters are being generated each day.  The thing I keep thinking is, there is potential momentum to be gained here.  Yes we're all angry, with new people getting angry each day.   So how can we channel this anger towards something actionable... and I dont mean just in regards to La Jolla Playhouse or the Nightingale itself.  The fact is that this instance is a symptom of a larger issue.  Our culture and society has perpetuated a perception that enabled some individuals to make an erroneous choice, without a thought for the real impact of this choice. 

At the heart of this all, I keep feeling that there is a flaw in our society's constructed perceptions, that allowed his production to develop over 10 years without being  questioned until it came to La Jolla.  I feel this flaw is  the same that has allowed the film industry to Erase asian americans from lead roles in films like 21, the Last Airbender, Dragon Ball Z, Akira, and many more.  It is the same flaw that allowed the US Government to go 40 years before making reparations for Japanese Internment. It is the same flaw that led to the death of Vincent Chin.  It is the same flaw that had Scientist Wen Ho Lee wrongfully on trial for espionage.  It is the same flaw that lies at the heart of  the suicides of Private Danny Chen, and Lance Corporal Harry Lew, and the thousands of other Asian Americans who have been reported to be the most bullied of all ethnic groups (according to AAPI Nexus).   Our culture characteristically dismisses Asians and Asian Americans. But with this public apology, a NEW PRECENDENT HAS BEEN SET!

Now it is to US to build upon that public acceptance of responsibility, so that we as a national community can build a foundation to incite action!
So I ask, what can we do, as a community with reinvigorated purpose, that can affect real change?  Is it something that we can propose to the La Jolla Playhouse? is it something we propose to the Theatre Communications Group with help from the Consortium of Asian American Theatres & Artists?  Is it something that engages other resources, or mediums, like say the success of APIA entertainers on youtube, or support from elected officials, or other political action movements?

Lets think "Blue-Sky" (that is to say "without limitations") what are some actionable ideas that we can engage in to change the face of American Theatre, film, television that can have an impact on the social constructions of our culture.  Lets use this momentum that something truly positive, and groundbreaking can come of this.

Please share your ideas and impressions on this survey,

I will also be adding entered email addresses into a Google Group in order to continue our discussion!

Thanks, and feel free to pass this along!