Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lunar New Year Edition

Happy Lunar New Year! It’s the year of the sheep/ram/goat. (take your pick, since the Chinese character is apparently hard to translate. Apparently, there are people sheepish about saying “sheep” because of the Western connotations about sheep.  I don’t think goats are particularly nice animals or look particularly lucky and prosperous, so I could go with “ram,” since they’re practically bigger, bigger-horned, and more aggressive sheep anyway).

Gothamist’s Jen Chung covered the “8 Auspicious Foods To Eat In the Year of the Sheep.” Her commentary gave nice context. I liked the photos of the food, even if they were stock photos.

Time Out New York has a feature (updated for this year) on the activities and events of Lunar New Year in New York City. Make it what you will. AM New York also has a feature for the Year of the Sheep. The big Lunar New Year parade in Chinatown (Manhattan) is Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015.

Museum of the Chinese in America has a Lunar New Year family event on Feb. 28, 2015, complete with lion dance performance by my alma mater’s lion dance troupe, along with arts and crafts.

I believe I saw this on triscriber YC’s Facebook page: the NBA wishes us all a happy Lunar New Year, complete with Jeremy Lin (always remembered for Lin-sanity for New Yorkers) and NBA All-Stars James Harden, Dwayne Wade, and Stephen Curry, as well as that Chicago Bull mascot (Benny the Bull – I forgot that he had a name). Funny and cute video. The video almost made me like the NBA again.

(not that I’m a real fan; just a casual sports viewer; the All-Star Game turned out to be a no-defense points-a-pollooza at Madison Square Garden that I didn’t watch on tv.  I did watch on tv the pre-All-Star game festivities at Barclay Center in Brooklyn. Well, I liked it at least to the extent that I watched the the Three Point Shot stuff; Stephen Curry was fun to watch).

Sports Illustrated had a post on the NBA Lunar New Year video, and a video of blooper reel for the making of the video (including Houston Rocket cheerleaders trying to speak a few lines of Chinese (well, “Happy New Year,” I think – but I don’t speak Mandarin Chinese, so… I’d probably have as much trouble too).

Just to mention, since I didn’t get to do so earlier: on Jan. 20, 2015 – I had finally checked out the “Chinese America: Exclusion/Inclusion” exhibit at NY Historical Society. I had not previously been to the NY Historical Society (different than the Museum of the City of NY), so that was interesting. I should go again to look at more of the collection, and I’d like to see the exhibit of the Stephen Somerstein photographs of the Selma March of 1965.

I’m glad that the Chinese American exhibit took advantage of the contributions of others (like Museum of Chinese in America and people in the NY community, including federal Judge Denny Chin). Much more legal take than I expected, but hey, Chinese people were the first people excluded by law from emigrating to the US, so American law and the Chinese are tightly bound. I do recommend the exhibit as something worth checking out!

Meanwhile, the northeast USA (and a good part of the rest of the country) was in deep freeze. I propose that since last year was “polar vortex,” this year is “frozen hell.” Kind of catchy, don’t you think?  But, according to the NY Times, it turned out to be the “Siberian Express,” so… go figure.  Maybe that’s a step up from “polar vortex.”

Gothamist has some photos of New York City in ice of the last day or two. Time Out New York had a “It’s too damn cold” photo thing, along with a funny post about the cold.

While the cold in NYC has been ridiculous, at least we don’t have as much snow as last year (although the remnants of the snow from the not-Blizzard of 2015 at the end of January had still not been chiseled off in some places). And, hey, we’re not Boston, where they have a whole winter of snow (or Chicago’s amount of snow) in only a couple of weeks. I think we should be glad of the reminder of (sort of) four seasons while we have the four seasons. But, don’t say that I didn’t warn you of climate instability if we get a ninety degree Fahrenheit temperature in May.

Hopefully spring will be nice…

Remaking British TV

Speaking of tv, meanwhile, I checked out episode 1 of “Gracepoint,” FOX’s remake of “Broadchurch.” It was ok, but a lot of echoing of episode 1 of “Broadchurch.”

Also: I missed David Tennant in his Scottish accent; his flat American voice as Detective Emmett Carver wasn’t the same as Detective Inspector Alec Hardy.

Detective Ellie Miller, played by Anna Gunn (previously of “Breaking Bad”) echoed some of her original version (played by Olivia Colman). But, I’m really not yet sure about her as Ellie.

And the pain of the Solanos – well, it didn’t hit the same note as the Latimers in “Broadchurch.” I remembered how raw “Broadchurch” episode 1 was, so “Gracepoint” episode 1 just didn’t hit the same feelings for me so far – the sense of confusion, tragedy, and rage (even Ellie’s rage of not getting to be the lead of the investigation). I am curious to see how they’ll try to diverge from “Broadchurch,” since they have two more episodes of time to play with. (actor Nick Nolte – eh). So, it’s kind of hard to say how I feel about “Gracepoint” beyond saying, “eh.”

I think NPR’s critic Eric Deggans was right – someone who hasn’t seen “Broadchurch” might very well enjoy “Gracepoint.” As an “American” show, it felt higher quality than a lot of American crime shows and I did like seeing actor Michael Pena as the dad of the victim (definitely more for that feeling of American diversity and he’s turning into one of those character actors who keeps popping up).

The more I think about it, I’m starting not to “blame” FOX for wanting to try the remake of a really good show. And, anyway, as I said in a previous post, as a mystery series, “Broadchurch” was a little off the mark, and it wasn’t the best kind of mystery and wasn’t that unique – a more traditional British police detective like Inspector Lewis would have just as easily hate the media as Inspector Hardy and Sgt. Miller, but he would have solved the case in two hours and had more bodies piling up. My feelings about the first two episodes of “Broadchurch” weren’t that strong (I’ve seen other British detective shows that either took a weirder direction or wrapped things up far tighter – like for instance, the Inspector Lewis series), but it’s one of those shows where the journey got really gripping.  I’m really not sure how season 2 of “Broadchurch” will work, but I wonder if British shows are just weirder or more aggressive to go all in because of their shorter “seasons.”

It’s hard to say how American remakes of British shows do all that well – some adaptations do become successful (a whole bunch from the 1970’s, like “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” and even “Sanford and Son”; and of course, there is “The Office”). “Prime Suspect” didn’t do well (but apparently, according to tv critic Alan Sepinwall, it got better as the season went on, but I wasn’t watching it and I had wanted to like it). The hard part for any remake is how to stand up on your own, or are you just a remake? It remains to be seen how “Gracepoint” will do, but maybe it won’t be so bad… Eh.

On the other hand, it’s another season of “Inspector Lewis” on “Masterpiece Theatre”! Lewis is going to un-retire to help Hathaway, who somehow got promoted to becoming inspector instead of quitting the police force (oh, no – he’s going to become Inspector Morse – alcoholic, sad but for his music – whatever his brand of music is, since it was something that looked like folk pop rock or whatever), and has his own sergeant.

It still amazes me how the Inspector Morse and spawned spinoffs has exploited the landscape of Oxford, England, and managed to make it the capital murder of England (and how Morse, Lewis, etc., still arrest people).  Some stuff can’t be remade, because of its time and place – Oxford, 1980s to now, gave us the Morse and spinoffs; I don’t know if a show works as well without its setting (so, no, I don’t think I want an American version of Morse, even his 1960s version).

Ah, television…

Spring 2014

Well, pardon the latest unintended hiatus…

One year after the Boston bombings at the Boston Marathon, it was great to see that Patriot Day of 4/21/14 was such great marathon day, with people taking back that finish line.  A big plus: Meb Keflezighi as the men’s champion! I remembered rooting for  Meb back when he was close to winning the gold at the Athens Olympics (still silver – no slouch), and it was great when he won the 2009 NYC Marathon, getting to be the first American in years at the time to have done that, and how he has kept alive elite American long distance running/marathoning. If anyone was going to try to pull it off to be the first American in 30 odd years to win the Boston Marathon, it’s terrific that Meb did it (since he did it before in NYC).

See here for the post I had on Meb’s winning the NYC Marathon 2009.  I saw there that I had a link to the NY Times article on Meb’s 2009 victory – and how poignant that it still reverberates these years later – that a great American story of victory lifts an American event (if you can pardon my being patriotic about this).

Meb is that great American story – an immigrant who keeps persisting, a lesson we can all learn. Boston Strong, indeed. (and kudos to Rita Jeptoo of Kenya for winning again and breaking a new women’s record at the Boston Marathon, and everyone who ran and supported the efforts!).

NY Times’ art/architecture critic Michael Kimmelman on an idea (just an idea) of a modern streetcar through the waterfront of Brooklyn-Queens, making more mass transit. I like the idea (I’m someone who is not impressed by the lack of bus frequency, especially on weekend/weeknights), since this could be a great alternative. But again – just an idea…

I’m not sure what to make of the US S.Ct’s decision, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action et al. – a plurality,  it surely is – upholding Michigan’s ban against affirmative action in public universities. I suppose I’d have to dive into reading the opinions therein, but I still find troubling Chief Justice Roberts’ belief that the way to deal with discrimination is not think/do it (well, I’m paraphrasing); it’s a nice idea, but it’s hard to get people to be colorblind when they’re not actually colorblind (or certainly not there yet).  The majority decided to defer to the Michigan voters, so, ok, democracy wins; but I don’t necessarily think that voters always do the right thing.

Slate’s Emily Bazelon did a review of the decision, and comes to the conclusion that I couldn’t help having:


I can’t read this without noting that in previous cases, Roberts has expressed his preference for color-blindness. This is where the conservatives on the court lose me. Good faith or no, it is at odds with reality to imagine that race no longer matters. I hope the states that ban affirmative action continue to enroll more low-income students as they also find ways to admit black and Hispanic applicants. But we still live in a world of race and class considerations. Not either/or.

Emil Guillermo also breaks down the plurality, with the twist reflecting on the climate we are in concerning, say, campaign financing:
But it’s likely that we will see future electoral battles over state and local propositions, now unfettered by campaign finance limits from special interests.  But will people of color be affirmed or will we see the tyranny of the majority? If it’s the latter, then this will be the 6-2 decision that cleared the way.
(h/t AALDEF’s home of the Guillermo post).
So, what’s next?  NY Times’ Tamar Lewin covers the question of how to tackle diversity.  The anti-affirmative action crowd seems to have race stuck in the brain, when there is a way to define diversity as more than race and when it is actually about getting as much people (critical mass, one would think) together, even listening to opinions that are really disagreeable. The article closes with a clincher for me:

Kati Haycock, president of the liberal Education Trust, said she could not deny that most people who follow the Supreme Court believe the clock is running out on race-based admissions policies.

“I just keep wishing that the people who spend so much time trying to end racial preferences in higher ed would work to end the racial differences in the education we provide K-12, which is why we need the racial preferences,” she said

That’s a big issue: if primary and secondary education in this country weren’t of such varying qualities, college readiness and people’s jobs options would be a hell of a lot better. We could say that the American dream is there for us all, except for some reason, it isn’t.  If, say, NYC, weren’t so socially and demographically segregated (de facto, not de jure), maybe we wouldn’t wonder why discrimination (as a matter of social practice, forget as law) wouldn’t still be on our minds (at least for those of us who feel it’s still going on).  I’m rambling, but I feel kind of down about how diversity can still be a real thing (and I believe that it is a good thing, and that affirmative action as a remedy shouldn’t be gone yet).

Meanwhile, Above the Law‘s Elie Mystal seems to be optimistic, citing three reasons why there is still hope for affirmative action: (1) “It’s up to the voters” (i.e., this case was about process, not the substantive policy itself); (2) “College Admissions Committees are smarter than voters” (i.e., they’re looking for students who actually want to be in their schools and make their schools great places – so the holistic approaches are still around, and admissions processes are way more complicated than we think – and it’s not just GPA’s and SAT’s or ACT’s – we’d hope); and (3) “Private Colleges are still awesome” (because this case only affects pubic institutions; a voting initiative isn’t necessarily going to tell a private school what to do).  Elie Mystal says it with a lot of sense, closing:

Today’s decision was “bad” for supporters of affirmative action, but the program is going to continue in various forms.

You know why? Because it works. Affirmative action has been wildly successful, both at giving minorities opportunities and for creating a better, more diverse learning environment. Schools aren’t going to easily give up something that works so well, even if the Court says that they can.

Last but not least: the passing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but in some ways, because we still have his writings and the legacy that they have – well, he has become a little immortal, much like other great writers who have reached a pinnacle and have an impact. I liked listening to the NPR remembrance; in discussing Garcia Marquez’s work, it included actor Hector Elizondo’s reading an excerpt of a Garcia Marquez book.  It just sounded so good – good writing and a good voice actor. I read Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold earlier this spring – and while it wasn’t as much of magic realism, the (lack of) social justice and other questions made it quite a read.  I still have ways to go to read more of his work (One Hundred Days of Solitude is still on my perpetually long to read list), but I’m glad that I started an effort and maybe I should keep going with it.  It’s spring and it’s time for some renewal and re-energizing.