Top Movies Needing JJ Abrams, The Nerd Emperor and Rebooter


The handing off of the crown jewels of American culture, Star Wars and Star Trek, to JJ Abrams, is a recognition of his powers as a popular storyteller. He understands the importance of preserving the principal elements of the story but also allows for the casual viewer to engage. The original Star Trek is fun to watch for someone like me who grew up with it, but to my sons who grew up with tablets and smartphones, the visuals don’t impress. Yeoman Rand after all carries a tablet that is thick, chunky, and pretend. They don’t can’t connect to many of the issues that drive the stories. The paranoia of the Cold War, the casual sexism, and the science love of the Sputnik generation, these are themes they have to be taught. It frankly makes for challenging viewing that gets in the way of the stories.

I’ve made a list of movies or stories that are begging for an update by Abrams. To purists, I get that these reboots are distracting, but they are far less distracting than colorizing black and white movies, reissuing new and improved directors cuts with CGI pasted in (I’m looking at you Lucas), and making lame remakes that kill the stories for a generation.

1. Logan’s Run. Originally a dark tale of the logic of youth culture run amok, the movie butchered it with terrible acting (Farrah Fawcett, I’m looking at you) and bad understanding of computers. The dystopian visuals of a World Without Us Washington, DC, were amazing. The core themes of rebellion, totalitarianism, and transitions from youth to adulthood would play well if done by Abrams.

2. Dune Trilogy. Let’s agree that David Lynch is really great with trippy psychodramas involving beautiful women and nerdy dudes but the soufflé collapsed in the vastness of Dune, both the novel and planet. I don’t completely blame Lynch because I see the hand of Di Laurentis, the producer, everywhere. It was like Di Laurentis wanted “The Space Medicis” while Kyle Machlachlan and Lynch were just redeeming their Hollywood tickets. The first three Dune novels are masterpieces and need a big budget and the resources of a medium sized country to do properly like Lord of the Rings, and Abrams should at least oversee it if not make it. Syfy channel made a bunch of miniseries based on the books but it is like seeing the Grand Canyon from inside of a box with a postcard sized hole. Land battles involving thousands should never be montages (looking at you Lucas).

3. Battlestar Galactica. The original was sold as a competitor to Star Wars, but the miniseries pilot was a proper movie on its own with strange, big ideas that no one remembers like Chariots of the Gods extraterrestrial origins of humanity. The reboot that started 10 years ago was a grim commentary about the end of a world much like ours, but got mired in awfully slow grim seasons (Battlestar Falluja?) that sought to make profound statements about our world with the sublety of a suicide bomb vest. The Cylons at the start seemed so dreadful but ended up after six seasons as a multitude of clones of the most annoying people at a office holiday party who are overlords of chrome toaster minions who have been throttled by chip modifications to be slaves, the original condition that caused them to rebel. Abrams would fix this, and return it to where it belongs -well executed space opera.

4. Speed Racer. Rebooting the recent reboot will be hard because the Wachowskis turned my beloved anime into a strange nightmare acid trip. It needed to stay true to its retro-future roots (Ascension, approving finger pointed at you) while keeping Speed vaguely Eurasian. Keep it animated and co produce it with Studio Ghibli. Major nerdgasms for a Bad Robot-Studio Ghibli reboot.

5. Six Million Dollar Man. It needs an update, and a new name because six million dollars won’t cover your basic ICU stay any more. Call it the Six Billion Dollar Man and give him prosthetic body after being decapitated by militants at the exact moment of his rescue –he is placed on an organ preservation machine and brought back for the fix. The reason –the secrets in his head that could save the world.

Metrics of Asian American Racial Progress

ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat is premiering in the New Year and it makes me think that mainstream media again is trying to figure out how to portray Asians not as sidekicks, comic relief, faceless hordes, sinister but emasculated male villains, or hyper-sexualized dragon ladies. It represents a reboot of this effort. The first time they tried almost a generation ago with Margaret Cho’s All American Girl. That show was broken by the network’s demands that Cho be more Asian doll sexy and the jokes more relatable (racist) to an audience not aware of Asian American culture. I propose the following metrics of Asian American racial progress.

1. The number of Asian American male leads in mainstream American television and cinema with top billing. Randall Park didn’t get equal billing as James Franco and Seth Rogen even though he had to carry the comedic load in much of the Interview. Selfie’s John Cho is one person, who I guess ironically is our Sidney Poitier, but the show got axed just as it was getting decent.

2. The amount of time it takes your Asian American child to face racism by one of his peers after day one of kindergarten.

3. The quality of the local Asian food -is it a world class eatery with an enigmatic monosyllabillic name or is it Chopstick Charlie’s. Are there authentic Asian items on the store shelves or just pale “Oriental” facsimiles? Are there bearded white hipsters non ironically crafting obscure regional kimchis?

4. The number of buildings at Harvard with Asian names. Famously, Harvard turned down the Wang family’s generous offer of a huge donation in exchange for renaming North House in the late 80’s, saying that North House -named for a compass direction, was to stay that way out of tradition. Less than ten years later it gets renamed Pforsheimer House. I guess it isn’t our turn.

5. The ratio of Asian men marrying non-Asian women in proportion to the Asian women marrying non-Asian men.

6. The frequency of having to school non-Asians in how to eat the food, in what the differences are between Asian countries, and why we can speak without chopsocky accents. And why we find “Oriental” to be mildly offensive.

7. The number of Asian Not Ready for Prime Time Players on Saturday Night Live. Yellowface is just as offensive as Blackface.

8. The number of times in a year when the politically correct social media rage machine eats a celebrity or politician for making a racist anti Asian comment with the same kind of vigor with which it destroys someone making a racist anti Black, anti Woman, or anti Semitic comment or joke.

9. The number of Asians shaping and directing mainstream American culture.

10. The number of Asian American Presidents of the United States.

An Inside Joke Inside The Interview?


So I watched the Interview, the Seth Rogen – James Franco road film about assassinating Kim Jong Un played by Randall Park. Buried in the brouhaha is an interesting casting choice of Diana Bang, a clearly talented and very funny actress who bears an uncanny resemblance to the Chairwoman of Samsung’s entertainment division, Miky Lee. I can’t help thinking the money people at Sony Entertainment not getting a chuckle out of this. I have a bit of dyspepsia over Sony dissing Samsung and laughing at Koreans killing other Koreans. The movie is painful to watch because I don’t find North Korea too funny, but I think this movie needs to be available to be watched because it is the eye of a very strange and new kind of shit storm and because it is my right. Corea Libré!

Pizza By The Slice Is My Proustian Madeleine


I had been rerouted from Laguardia to Newark, and in danger of missing an important meeting, as I rushed through Penn Station when the smell of cheap pizza stopped me in my tracks. The pizza joint was a hole in the wall, designed for commuters eating fast and cheap. There were beers and beverages lying in ice, triple priced, but for a fountain drink and a slice of cheese pizza, it was 3 bucks which was unusually cheap. I ordered a slice and a Coke and rolled my bags to a greasy table and sat with this marvel of New York City.
The tangy, warm, saltiness of the minimal sauce, the crisp of the crust with the chewiness of the steamed dough a microlayer above the crust and under the cheese transported me to 1978 when I was a fourth grader, released from school for lunch in a dingy pizza joint in Bay Ridge, a slice and a small Dixie cup of Coke for a dollar. I used to fold my pizza, Brooklyn style back then, but now no more because I was an out of towner, a mook. You could get a slice of Sicilian for the same price, but it was never as good as regular slice. The smell of cigarettes and loud conversations bordering on violence in the back, the top forty disco and rock coming from the radio. The pride of buying your own food. The other kids crowded to the closer pizza places and the White Castle only a block away, but I always made the long walk for this pizza, so I usually ate alone, like I did in that Penn Station way station. A lonely transient was my only other company and he stared into his plastic cup of free water as if divining the future, or was it the past.