• Your one stop for college news and resources!

Ellen Zacarias

Hey there. I'm Ellen, and I graduated with a lit/writing degree from UCSD. As the chosen major suggests, I love books and working with text, and in addition to that, my other interests include style, MBTI and travel. When I'm not working, reading or writing, I enjoy walking along trails, spending time with my family, and thinking about imaginary realms and characters. You can contact me at ellen.ly@gmail.com.

Fresh Off the Boat, Episode 8 Recap: Philip Goldstein

Mrs. Huang Re-Defines the Good Chinese Boy

The previous episode of Fresh Off the Boat shifted the spotlight away from the issue of race and focused instead on developing the characters in the Huang family. In tonight’s Episode 8: “Philip Goldstein”, race returns to the foreground when a Chinese Jewish boy transfers to Eddie’s school.

The New Kid at School

Principal Hunter calls Eddie Huang into his office and asks him to give the new kid a tour. Immediately, Eddie knows what’s up. “He’s Chinese, isn’t he?” he asks bluntly.

“What? No!” exclaims Principal Hunter as he flusters about. I found this part quite amusing, because Principal Hunter’s attempts to not appear racist ultimately end in singling out the two boys because they happen to be the only two Asian students in the school.

Yay, diversity…

A short conversation over lunch quickly reveals that Eddie Huang and Philip Goldstein have absolutely nothing in common, except for their race. They don’t even have a similar culture–Philip’s last name is Goldstein because he was adopted by religious and traditional Jewish parents. Philip transferred from Jerusalem, so he and Eddie don’t even have a similar cultural frame of reference. Eddie and Philip don’t share any interests either–where Eddie likes rap music, Philip like musicals.

“Now You Two Can Look Out For Each Other”

The issue of race not only manifests in the adults pressuring Eddie and Philip to be best friends because they happen to belong to the same race, but also in identity. “Why can’t you be a good Chinese boy?” asks Eddie’s mother when he asks to go to a rap concert. She defines a “good Chinese boy” as one who plays classical instruments and is studious, similar to Eddie’s younger brothers.

When Mrs. Huang finds out that there is a Chinese boy at school, she is deeply thrilled. “Now you two can look out for each other,” she says. Mrs. Huang is entranced by Philip due to his sense of responsibility and the fact that he plays a classical instrument.

The rap-loving, loose-jeans wearing Eddie figures out a way to use Mrs. Huang’s approval and adoration of Philip to get access to the rap concert by saying that he and Philip are both going. To Eddie’s surprise, Philip plays along, but only because Philip wants a ride to a musical. Their agreement: they will go see Les Miserables first, then go to the Beastie Boys concert afterward.

Mr. Huang’s Fear of Confrontation

Meanwhile, Mr. Huang has hired a handsome guy named Wyatt to replace Mitch, who had gone over to work at the rival restaurant. Wyatt dresses like a cowboy straight from an old western films. Initially, Mr. Huang thinks Wyatt is a great fit. However, soon he gets annoyed by Wyatt’s show-stealing lasso, and re-hires Mitch…except Mr. Huang can’t bring himself to fire Wyatt, at least in person.

In Fresh Off the Boat, Louis Huang and Jessica Huang work as complete foils of each other. Louis avoids negative confrontation, while Jessica doesn’t think twice about challenging anything or anyone. Louis’s fear of confrontation (and being the “bad cop”) makes him the more remote parent, as he lets Jessica handle the tough love. Sometimes, Louis as a character is so remote and placating that he fades quietly into the background when placed next to Jessica.  I would be curious to see Louis overcome his fear of confrontation when it comes to working with (or against) people outside the family, but the show seems to be using his fear as a source of humor and conflict.

Philip Abandons Eddie; Mrs. Huang Re-Defines the “Good Chinese Boy”

Ultimately, Philip ditches Eddie at the theaters and Eddie ends up missing the concert because he is looking Philip. Initially, Mrs. Huang is mad at Eddie for losing Philip, but when an unapologetic Philip answers the door, Mrs. Huang is horrified to learn that Philip had abandoned her son and gives him a good tongue-lashing about breaking promises, ending with, “You are not a good Chinese boy. Eddie is.”

She has relinquished her older, extrinsic notions of what it means to be a “good Chinese boy” (polite to adults, plays classical music, studies a lot, dresses conservatively) to more wholesome, intrinsic values that focus on being considerate and reliable to others.

Eddie might listen to rap music that make Mrs. Huang’s head hurt, but in the end, he is considerate, and she appreciates that in her son.

New to Fresh Off the Boat? Check out the intro to the show: “Why You Should Watch Fresh Off the Boat: the First Asian American Sitcom in Twenty Years”

University of Oklahoma Fraternity Shut Down After Racist Video Leaked Online

Sigma Alpha Epsilon Members Chanted Racist Slurs On Charter Bus

The University of Oklahoma has officially severed all ties with its Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity chapter over a video that surfaced over the weekend that showed fraternity members chanting racist slurs on a charter bus.

David Boren, the President of the University of Oklahoma, has given the suspended SAE fraternity members until midnight tomorrow to move out of their fraternity house.

In the video, Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members dressed in formalwear chanted racist epithets as they rode on a charter bus. The racist chants included, “There will never be a n—-r at SAE.”

The video quickly spread across the Internet soon after it surfaced, drawing widespread condemnation from the public towards the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter.

National Sigma Alpha Epsilon Organization Releases Statement; Closes Chapter and Suspends Members

On Sunday night, the national SAE organization posted its own statement expressing disgust for the video and condemning the members who were took place in the racist chants. The national Sigma Alpha Epsilon organization closed the UO chapter and suspended its members. “Equally unacceptable is bystander behavior of members who fail to intervene when they witness conduct that deviates from our beliefs,” the statement added.

Brad Cohen, the national president of the fraternity was quoted as stating, “I was not only shocked and disappointed but disgusted by the outright display of racism displayed in the video. SAE is a diverse organization, and we have zero tolerance for racism or any bad behavior…We determined with no mental reservation whatsoever that this chapter needed to be closed immediately.”

The national SAE organization originally ended its statement with the hope that they may “re-establish the Oklahoma Kappa chapter at some point in the future with a group of men who exemplify our beliefs and who serve as leaders on campus and in the community.”

The ending sentence to the national SAE organization’s statement was later omitted today. In its place is this statement: “We respect the decision of the University of Oklahoma President to ban the fraternity from campus and are sickened that our former chapter members involved in this incident have outraged the campus population and community.”

The President of the University of Oklahoma Goes to Twitter to Condemn SAE; SAE Loses Fraternity House

This morning, David Boren, the President of the University of Oklahoma posted a scathing statement on Twitter:

To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves “Sooners.” Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots. Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity. Real Sooners treat all people with respect. Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members.

Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between this University and the local SAE chapter are hereby severed. I direct that the house be closed and that members will remove their personal belongings from the house by midnight tomorrow. Those needing to make special arrangements for positions shall contact the Dean of Students.

All of us will redouble our efforts to create the strongest sense of family and community. We vow that we will be an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue. There must be zero tolerance for racism everywhere in our nation.

David L. Boren


University of Oklahoma”

As Boren stated, the suspended fraternity members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon no longer have a fraternity house and will have to move out their possessions by midnight tomorrow.

White House Responds to the SAE Racist Video

During Monday’s press briefing, the White House responded to the racist video by praising David Boren for his actions condemning Sigma Alpha Epsilon. 

The Racist SAE Video

A clip from the video can be seen by clicking on this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG-wq6SJqjU

Casting Ideas: HOPE FOR GARBAGE by Alex Tully

Actors and Eye Candy Galore!

I don’t make a list of casting ideas for every novel that I read, but Hope for Garbage by Alex Tully was very visual. I could picture things happening as if they were on a screen. So here you are!

Colton Haynes as Trevor McNulty

The handsome young guy on the cover looks a bit like a slender Dave Franco, but throughout the book, Trevor’s shyness, anxiety, and inner drive made me picture him as Roy Harper from The Arrow (played by Colton Haynes), who also lives on the poor side of town and falls in love with a rich girl.

Clint Eastwood as Mr. Tyminski

Mr. Tyminski, Trevor’s quiet neighbor who offers the boy a safe haven from his crummy home life. Maybe a gentler and less grumpy Mr. Walt Kowalski from Gran Torino (played by Clint Eastwood), and without the guns.

Jeryl Prescott as Lorene

Lorene is the housekeeper for Bea’s family. She is skeptical about Trevor at first, but she treats him with compassion after she meets him in person. The actress Jeryl Prescott played Jacqui in The Walking Dead, and I really liked her no-nonsense but also nurturing demeanor. While I loved her demeanor as Jacqui in The Walking Dead, I imagine Lorene is much cleaner and well-groomed as the maid of a wealthy family, so this picture of Jeryl Prescott fits my vision of Lorene better.

Willa Holland as Bea Stewart

Well, since I pictured Roy from The Arrow as Trevor McNulty, I couldn’t help but picture Thea Queen from The Arrow (played by Willa Holland) as Bea Stewart because the two characters come from wealthy families and are rebellious or carry resentments against their parents at some point or another. Willa Holland has short hair here, and I just imagine her with black hair. Willa Holland’s big, blue eyes also match the description of Bea.

Elizabeth Hurley as Mrs. Stewart

I had a hard time picturing Mrs. Stewart as any specific actress. Her attempts to fit in with conventional beauty standards made it so that she’d look like any attractive, aging Hollywood actress. Maybe Elizabeth Hurley from Bedazzled and also Gossip Girl (where her character, Diana Payne, had an scandalous affair with a younger, possibly-underaged guy as well).


What do you think of these casting choices? Do you have any other ideas for who could play some of these characters?

Read my thoughts on Hope for Garbage by Alex Tully here.

HOPE FOR GARBAGE by Alex Tully: Review

A fast-paced young adult novel about moving away from tragedy, dealing with guilt, and finding redemption.

Hope for Garbage by Alex Tully is a story that moves quickly from a boy with a troubled past to a whirlwind of drama that had me rocking back and forth and muttering, “Oh ****, oh ****!” as I hit plot twists. Not a lot of novels affect in me such a visceral way, but Hope for Garbage did.

While Hope for Garbage covers some heavier issues like alcoholism and drug abuse (mostly with the adults), the overall feel of the novel is optimistic and bittersweet. This is a story about moving away from tragedy, dealing with guilt, and finding a new, redemptive purpose for things (and lives) that have been banged up and discarded.

I could give you my take on the setup of the story, but the blurb for Hope for Garbage does a great and descriptive job, so here it is:

"Welcome to the cruel world of Trevor McNulty. No matter how hard he tries, this seventeen year-old just can’t get a break. After enduring a tragic past, he finds himself living with his alcoholic uncle on the outskirts of Cleveland. His days are filled with garbage-picking and hanging out with his seventy year-old neighbor, who also happens to be his best friend.

One early morning while scanning the streets in a posh suburb, he meets Bea, a rebellious rich girl with problems of her own. She’s smart, cute, and a glimmer of light in his dark world.

But in the midst of their budding romance, Bea’s beautiful yet miserable mother enters the picture with an agenda of her own. Beginning with an innocent car ride, she sets off a chain of events so shocking and destructive, Trevor is pushed to the brink of despair.

While he is desperate to save his relationship with Bea, he learns that nothing in his world can be saved unless he first saves himself.

Hope for Garbage is a story about resilience—about overcoming adversity under the most extraordinary circumstances—about never, ever, giving up hope.

Because sooner or later, everybody gets a break."


Alex Tully is a good storyteller. The book was fast-paced, and I ripped through it in no time, not only because it was quick, but also because I found it easy to identify with Trevor and his drive to excel and make a better life.

The story starts off hinting of a sweet, Romeo and Juliet sort of romance between Trevor and Bea, but a scene worthy of The Graduate (1967) quickly throws Trevor into the midst of a lot of drama. Things go down…they really do.

Alex Tully doesn’t tell us everything about Trevor right off the bat. The author tends to hold off until a better time to reveal secrets about Trevor. We know he had a troubled past, but we don’t know what happened until a later part of the novel. This kept me on my toes the whole way.


Trevor McNulty

Trevor McNulty is the sort of character that’s easy to cheer for. He’s smart, resourceful, and has had a lot of crummy things happen to him and his family that he couldn’t control. Throughout the book, he grapples with painful childhood memories and guilt, which is woven seamlessly with the scenes between him and his therapist as well as the dramatic events that unfold later in the story.


Lorene is the housekeeper for Bea’s family, and has served as more of motherly/best friend figure for Bea than Bea’s biological mother. She lives a quiet, empty-nester life in a smaller house on the nicer side of town with her husband. Lorene notices people’s surprised reactions to her as an African American woman on the wealthier side of town.

Mrs. Stewart, or “Evelyn”

If I could sum up Bea’s mom in a phrase, it would be “Mrs. Robinson.” Like Trevor, Bea’s mom is unhappy with her station in life, but unlike him, she is trapped in an unhappy marriage with a toxic husband who turns her daughter against her. Her character had the most potential for complexity but it didn’t play out that way. Her loneliness and insecurity lead her to “do” things a la Graduate (1967), but worse, because Trevor hasn’t even graduated from high school. She’s hard to like, and sadly, it stays that way for the whole novel. For her, things never get better. 

Bea Stewart

Having grown up in a economically comfortable neighborhood, Bea is sheltered but not judgmental when it comes to lower-income communities. She resents her mother for being absent. Although Bea starts off as Trevor’s love interest, she quickly becomes a minor character since she comes in and out of the novel through the eyes of Lorene.

THE ENDING… (Spoiler Hints)

What the heck happened in the last chapter?

While Tully’s way of holding secrets until later tends to work well, the ending undoes everything that we’ve been lead to believe about Trevor. This is less of a twist and more of a non sequitur.

Most of the novel makes Trevor out to be a “diamond in the rough”, a considerate kid from the ghetto who’s going to break out of his run-down and unstable environment into a better life with more opportunities, but the last few lines were so out of character for him and Lorene that I’ll just pretend they never happened. That never happened, okay?


My eyes were glued to the book until the end. Overall, this was a great read because the story moves fast, and there are lots of plot twists that keep me on my toes. Trevor is a character who I want to cheer for as he earns more opportunities for a better life. Some of the characters are a bit underdeveloped, such as Mrs. Stewart, who is villainized and dispensed with by the end of the novel.

(Hint: You can probably find the book for cheap on Amazon. As of today, it’s $2.99 on Kindle.)

My rating: 4/5 stars

Harrison Ford Crashes Small Plane in Golf Course

Engine Failure Forces Real-Life Daredevil to Make Emergency Crash Landing

Harrison Ford, the 72-year-old actor known for his roles as the ruggedly-handsome Indiana Jones and Han Solo in the Indiana Jones and Star Wars film franchises, was hospitalized on Thursday afternoon after a small plane that he was piloting crashed into the Penmar Golf Course in Venice, Califonia. 

Cause of the plane crash? Engine problems in the single-engine vintage World War II military trainer plane emerged during takeoff and eventually, a complete engine failure forced Harrison Ford to make an emergency landing in a golf course. 

According to Assistant Chief Patrick Butler of the Los Angeles Fire Department, Harrison Ford suffered moderate trauma but was in fair to moderate condition.

Ben Ford, the son of Harrison Ford, posted on Twitter regarding his dad’s condition:


Kidnapping Mr Heineken Falls Flat as Crime/Action Movie

95 Minutes of Bickering Men

Introduction: Kidnapping Mr. Heineken

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken advertises itself as a cinematic retelling of the 1983 kidnapping-and-ransoming of a rich beer tycoon from the perspectives of the criminals. However, it ultimately dissolves into a long snooze-fest as the brothers in crime wait for the money to pour in from the police. 

US Release Date: March 6, 2015 

Length: 95 Minutes

Plot: Lots of Waiting

In 1983, a group of childhood buddies join their minds together in a brainstorming sesh and then kidnap Mr. Heineken, the heir of the Heineken brewing company and also one of the richest men in the world at the time. A ransom is demanded from the police, and in the meantime, they feed Mr. Heineken and his frightened chauffeur, who they also kidnapped and shoved into the back of the van. We follow the young men from their plotting, their execution of the crime, and then to their fall. 

More Bickering Than Shooting

On IMDB, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is classified as an action / crime / drama / thriller. When I saw the movie, I was disappointed. Movies should describe their genre elements the way food labels do: by order of the largest quantity to the least. Here’s my un-scientific breakdown of Kidnapping Mr. Heineken’s genre ratios:

Drama: 95%

Why 95%? A large part of the movie was centered around the drama between the brothers in crime. Cor van Hout, with a pregnant girlfriend, has the most to gain (and lose) out of the group. A few attempts to humanize the criminals were made. While I occasionally felt pity for the criminals, I found none of their life stories all that compelling or likable.
Anthony Hopkins dominates the screen during his short and brief appearances as the calm and calculating Freddy Heineken. His place in the script is quirky and quite intriguing. Hopkins definitely has the gravitas to carry this movies, but although the entire movie is centered around his character, we barely get to see him except when the criminals feed him in his cell.  

Crime: 3%

The young men may have planned the heist and they do curse like pirates, but they’re decent folks at heart when it comes to the value of life. Even purportedly tough-guy Willem wusses out when he’s faced with killing Heineken. No explorations of the dark potential of the human spirit here.  

Action: 1%

Most of the guns are for waving and threatening, not so much killing. The actual kidnapping of Freddy Heineken happens in a flash, and then it’s over. What action? 

Thriller: 0%

All that bickering filled the movie like cotton. Lots of frill, no thrill. 

A Talented Cast:

Anthony Hopkins

Anthony Hopkins dominates the screen during his short and brief appearances as the calm and calculating Freddy Heineken. His place in the script is quirky and quite intriguing. Hopkins definitely has the gravitas to carry this movies, but although the entire movie is centered around his character, we barely get to see him except during very select parts.  

The actors who played the criminals were good, but not show stars. It also didn’t help that the script didn’t allow their characters to evolve much beyond bickering and soap opera-style drama. 

At times, there was little to distinguish the young criminals from each other besides the fact that one of them was expecting a baby. The younger actors who played the criminals are: 

Jim Sturgess 

Jim Sturgess has shown up in Cloud Atlas and Across the Universe. Jim Sturgess’s performance as Cor Van Hout is good but there wasn’t much for him to work with.

Sam Worthington

The lead from Avatar and Clash of the Titans, Sam Worthington returns to the large screen as the scruffy Willem Holleeder. I wasn’t too impressed with his acting chops in Avatar or Clash of the Titans, but his work here is an improvement even though he sounds way too British for the Dutch character that he’s supposed to be. 

Ryan Kwanten

Also known as Sookie’s hot brother from True Blood, Ryan Kwanten was cast here as Jan “Cat” Boellard. 

Mark van Eeuwen

Never seen him before, but he’s handsome. Mark van Eeuwen plays the volatile Frans “Spikes” Meijer. 

Why So British?

The quick and constant bickering between the buddies seems to channel the style of British crime movies such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). The British accents that pervaded throughout this film were distracting from its supposedly Dutch setting.


I give Kidnapping Mr. Heineken a 5/10 due to the good cast, amusing moments with Mr. Heineken in his cell, and great concept but poor execution. At times, it felt like the actors’ talents went to waste due to poor character development and a lifeless pacing encumbered with pointless bickering.  

Fresh Off the Boat, Episode 7 Recap

“Everyone just stood around and watched my husband’s face get milked on?”

In this episode of Fresh Off the Boat, graffiti vandalism haunts Louis Huang (Eddie’s dad) as he tries to advertise his restaurant through large billboards. The episode opens with Older Eddie reminiscing about how his dad “had a guilty pleasure—he loved gangster movies: immigrants fighting for their piece of the American Dream.”

Huh. Gangster movies as American narratives of the immigrant experience. Why didn’t we learn this in high school?

“Showdown at the Golden Saddle” continues the idealism and ambition for the American Dream from previous episodes, but here, we’re introduced to a darker (or more realistic) side of it when we’re hit with what it really takes to achieve one’s goals.

Jessica (mom) and Louis (dad) discover that vandals have drawn udders over his beaming face in the billboard advertisement.

Jessica: Nobody tried to stop them? Everyone just stood around and watched my husband’s face get milked on?

Louis: That is anatomically impossible! …I just wish it didn’t look like I was enjoying it so much.

And in the end, it doesn’t matter to the pragmatic Jessica (Eddie’s mom) that Louis was less-than-honest in his creation of the restaurant. “I would choose a good businessman over a visionary any day of the week,” she says when he admits to her that he had stolen nearly every idea for his restaurant from the Golden Saddle chain of restaurants and jumped out the bathroom window with the menu.

The great dynamic between Mom and Dad is one of the reasons that I look forward to watching each installment of this show. The usually-aggressive and blunt Jessica softens up to give Louis some much-needed pep talk when he’s feeling bad about his evil methods of achieving success.

Meanwhile, little Eddie pulls out his swagger and rebellious rap CDs to impress his neighbor, Nicole, who is at least two years older than him. He describes her appraisingly as “tough”. While distant and aloof towards Eddie, Nicole is polite to his parents.

Granny barely makes a peep (in Mandarin) this episode even though she maintains her nonchalant brand of cool. An entire episode dedicated to Granny would be interesting. I would like to see more development on Eddie’s relationship with his little brothers beyond the rivalry and petty annoyances.

I loved the scene in which Louis and Jessica challenge the owner of the Golden Saddle, who was behind the graffiti. The couple is giant ball of sass (and mobster movie references) when teamed together. I’m curious to see how this restaurant rivalry plays out in the next few episodes. 

Why You Should Watch Fresh Off the Boat: the First Asian American Sitcom in Twenty Years

When I was a child of the ‘90s, there weren’t many TV characters that I easily identified with on a physical or cultural level. I was barely waddling out of my diapers when All American Girl, America’s first Asian American sitcom (featuring Margaret Cho), stopped airing after one season. Part of the reason it was canceled was because the show was full of stereotypical portrayals of Asian Americans with little character development. The producers also had trouble with the show’s direction, and the inconsistencies between episodes culminated in a confused and disappointed audience who had trouble identifying with the characters.

On March 15, 1995, All American Girl was canceled.

Twenty years later, Fresh Off the Boat is the first Asian American family sitcom to arrive on mainstream television.

Based on Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, this show is a huge ‘90s flashback delivered by the narrating voice of adult Eddie Huang. The show revolves around the Taiwanese family, which had just moved from Washington D.C. to an insular, mostly-white neighborhood in Orlando, Florida.

The first two episodes hit the air on February 4, 2015. So far, it has been sailing on positive reviews (8.3/10 on IMDB and 88% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes).

Meet the Huang family:

• Eddie’s younger siblings Evan and Emery have adapted well to Orlando and are popular, subverting the stereotype of the timid and unpopular Asian nerd (think of Lawrence from Jack Black’s School of Rock).

Young Eddie (played by Hudson Yang) however, comes across some challenges fitting in with the kids at school, sometimes to the point of pursuing hilarious means to do so. The only other non-white kid at school is Walter, a black kid who scoffs at Eddie’s desperate attempts to fit in with the cool white boys.

Mr. Huang (Randall Park) wants to become successful at running his restaurant, which has been his lifelong dream.

Mrs. Huang (played by Constance Wu copes humorously with the culture shock in the new town. D.C. was a lot more fast-paced, and she had friends back in their old city. 

Grandma (played by Lucille Soong, who boasts an impressive filmography) is quite the unconventionally endearing and hip grandma, who teaches Poker to her grandchildren and dances to Eddie’s rap music.

True to its name, Fresh Off the Boat tackles the issue of race head-on, using a great balance humor and honesty for hilarity and also the touching moments that make this series easy to identify with. The term “Fresh Off the Boat,” often shortened to “FOB”, has often been used as a derogatory term towards Asian immigrants who haven’t quite assimilated into mainstream American culture. The “boat” part harkens back to the days when people moved to different continents by ship.

Originally, the show was called “Far East Orlando,” but it was later changed back to “Fresh Off the Boat”.

By using a phrase that has been used in a demeaning manner towards immigrants, the show reappropriates the term to a more general and inclusive meaning—Mr. and Mrs. Huang are from Taiwan, but the entire family experiences culture shock when they move to Orlando from DC.

The show removes the “otherness” aspect of its title by implying that “Fresh Off the Boat” would apply to anyone who has moved from one town to another, If you’ve moved from a town to a strange new city, then yes, you too, are “Fresh Off the Boat.” We’ve all experienced a form of culture shock at one point or another. Beneath the cultural humor is a universal story of moving to a new place and adapting to new circumstances. 

Besides, “Fresh Off the Boat” is much more memorable than “Far East Orlando”.

As newcomers to a place with its own norms and unwritten rules, the Huang family holds great potential for character development through the trials of adjusting to a new town. Mrs. Huang, who was introduced as a strict and overbearing tiger mom, has been humanized over the course of a few episodes by her love-and-rivalry relationship with her sister, as well as her friendship with the attractive housewife on the block with whom she shares the love of Stephen King movies.

Eddie’s parents might be somewhat strict with school and conservative with PDA (public displays of affection), but Eddie’s parents are ex-urbanites who are actually socially progressive.

“Go to your room,” said Mr. Huang. 

At some point, Eddie’s dad also mentions the fact that they moved away from Taiwan because it was too conservative. Mr. and Mrs. Huang are certainly more progressive than the parents that my Asian American friends and I grew up with, and their more progressive values make them easier for a wider audience to identify with.

Fresh Off the Boat nests in the age of YouTube and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. While Asian Americans are still, for the most part, marginalized to minor roles in mainstream television programs, the Internet tells a different story: Asian American entertainers, such as NigaHiga and Just Kidding Films, have taken up a larger presence on the Internet through their own channels. As the stars of their own projects, these Asian American entertainers don’t identify with the two-dimensional stock characters that they, as Asian Americans, are often cast as. Instead, they’re the stars of their own projects. Granted, comedy is still a male-dominated industry, whether in the mainstream or within the Asian American entertainment community. However, the widening visibility of Asian Americans in charge of their own projects on popular media means that there is a more receptive audience to such a mainstream show featuring an Asian American family as the main protagonists.

Ultimately, Fresh Off the Boat is a show about moving to a strange new town and making a new (and better) life for yourself and your family—something that many people, whether Asian American or not, can relate to. 

Starting this week, there will be reviews of Fresh Off the Boat episodes as they come out each week on Tuesday on the ABC channel. You can watch Fresh Off the Boat for free on the ABC website and follow the Huang family on their quirky adventures. 

Album Review: Mess by Liars

Album: Mess

Artist: Liars

Genres: Punk Rock, Electronica, Dance Punk

Original Release Date: March 24, 2014

Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Liars is a punk rock and electronica band that consists of three members: Angus Andrew (vocals/guitar), Aaron Hemphill (percussion/guitar/synth), and Julian Gross (drums). The band experienced its genesis at the dawn of our millennium in 2000, and has since then relocated to different places, including New York (where the band became famous) and Berlin. Liars has also developed quite a following in the United Kingdom.

With each album, Liars has evolved its style between elements of punk rock, electronica, and dance. Mess is the Liar’s seventh album. A Mute press release describes Mess as the band’s followup to their previous album, WIXIW. Where WIXIW featured the band in an uncertain and ambiguous state, Mess shows the Liars storming out from the glassy sea of introspection with fire in their eyes.

A sense of unease and sinister vibes pervade this album’s throbbing alternative dance beats. Liars’ relationship with uncertainty continues in this album, except their response is angrier and more unsettling than in the previous album–an aggressiveness packaged with dance punk, particularly in “Pro Anti Anti” and “Can’t Hear Well.” 

A common theme within the lyrics in this album is the struggle against fear and vulnerability. The occasional crooked lines of lyrics in the lyrics booklet give off the sense of an overwhelmed mind that questions its own sanity at times.

Snippets of lyrics that reveal their anxious struggle against inner demons in Mess:

“Mask Maker” (Track 1): “I’m long past saving / I’m swallowing degenerates whole / It took both ambition and fear to finally figure it out / Well it looks so appealing in real life it’s actually not”

“Vox Tuned D.E.D.” (Track 2): “I always wondered how / To rid myself of doubt / Haven’t really been forced in a while”

“I’m No Gold” (Track 3): “I, I’m a waste / And you’re gold / I’m not clear why you’re here, but you’re here / I, I’m a waste, I’m no gold, I’m no gold, I’m no gold, I’m just lead / You were right”

Here’s a link to the music video of Liars’ single version of “I’m No Gold.” Just a warning: the look on the guy’s face is the stuff of angry, head-throbbing nightmares.

I prefer the album version of “I’m No Gold.”

Overall, Mess is a compilation of unsettling alternative dance tracks that explore the emotions associated with anxiety and uncertainty. Liars has been experimenting with their style for a very long time, and this is the latest update to their direction, which emanates aggressive beats and vibes while maintaining its reflective elements in the lyrics. 

Find out more about Mess by Liars on: Amazon

| Liars Website

Dystopian Fantasy YA Novel: Light of Lorelei by Jen Minkman

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Tales of Skylge series, it’s a dystopian fantasy series set on an island in which Sirens (merfolk) regularly pull haplessly enchanted island people towards the sea with their eerie music, where they tear them apart and consume their life force.

Light of Lorelei continues the island’s story from the first novel, Sound of Sirens (see review).

Aska is an orphan who is doomed to serve in a convent for the rest of her life because she is the offspring of a taboo relationship between Skylger and Current/Anglian individuals. The aftermath of a vicious siren attack on the convent leads Aska to find the truth behind the Sirens and the ruling class (Currents) of the island.

St. Brendan’s Fire has always been used to repel the Sirens, or so Aska was taught. However, the Sirens’ reaction from the use of St. Brendan’s Fire leads her to doubt its true purpose…

Aska has to decide whether to help the Skylger rebels conduct their research of the mysterious tower of St. Brendan’s Fire. She meets a mysterious and handsome fisherman who starts turning up in places she goes. She also meets two young people who ask her to help them find the truth about St. Brendan’s Fire.

I came into the novel a bit confused, leaping from Enna and Royce’s dramatic ending in Sound of Sirens into Aska’s life in the convent. I also thought Aska might have been the daughter of Enna and Royce, except Aska’s father was a Skylger. However, this was settled later in the novel.

The convent shows a different side of the island of Skylge, which I really enjoyed seeing. Because Aska’s job at the convent is to serve the community and protect it from the siren’s songs (by using the church’s own hymns), Aska is able to see the island’s events in a larger perspective. Because of her life as an outcast, Aska is a bit resentful, even if she is somewhat resigned to her station in life.

She escapes from convent life by sneaking out to take evening walks, during which she meets Tjalling, a mysterious fisherman…who starts popping up wherever she goes. I was afraid Aska’s relationship with Tjalling would be too similar to Enna-Royce, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Actually, this novel surprised me many times.

There are so many twists and mind-boggling revelations in Light of Lorelei. I’d start thinking the story would go a certain way, and then–nope!–it’d head right into another direction, each time deepening my understanding of who the Sirens are and what their relationship to Skylge is. I really loved finding out about the Sirens and the truths behind the way things were on the island, particularly how the Currents have maintained their power over the Skylgers for so long. And Aska’s true identity.

I wish I could reveal more but that’d be spoiling too much. 😉 Let’s just say that this novel strikes a delicious balance between revealing the magical secrets of Skylge, the further development of the characters, and the fate of the Skylger-Anglian co-existence.