NOCs of the Roundtable: Hot Star Wars Takes Awaken

You might not have known, but a little movie opens this weekend. It’s called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Heard of it? Well, it’s already shattering box office records worldwide, and it’ll probably be the highest grossing movie of the year. And there’s only two more weeks left in the year.

Anyway, a bunch of the NOCs have already seen the movie and want to share their thoughts. We’ll be updating this Roundtable throughout the weekend as more of us head out to the multiplex. In the meantime, know that anything and everything after the jump are massive Star Wars spoilers. Be warned.

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NOCs of the Roundtable: Best Fight Scenes Ever

As our friend Angry Asian Man broke the nerdtastic news this week that some fine fighters from The Raid would be joining the cast of Star Wars, it seemed as good a time as any to convene a roundtable of some of us martial arts film enthusiasts here at the NOC to talk about our favorite martial arts fight scenes.

Before we shared our favorite scenes with one another, we guessed there would be significant overlap, especially concerning the great Bruce Lee. Sure enough, each of us had picked at least one Bruce Lee scene on our individual lists. To avoid repetition, we decided not to double up, so as you can see some folks wrote about legendary Bruce scenes and the rest of us wrote about alternates — but please trust, we keep Bruce at the front of our fighting hearts.

Who’s not on the list, though? Uma Thurman. Just… no.

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An Open Letter to The New York Times’ Critic Manohla Dargis about Big Hero 6

It’s too bad that in making its first movie based on a Marvel comic Disney didn’t decide to take a real leap into the future, say, by making Hiro a girl…

Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

Dear Ms. Dargis,

I was born in Vietnam shortly before the tanks rolled into Saigon and my family was forced to flee. Raised in South Minneapolis’ largest, poorest, and most racially diverse neighborhood, my father taught me to walk to the library and got me hooked on free books. Later, I would learn to run there, mostly to avoid the myriad groups of bullies wanting to beat me for whatever reason they could conjure that day, and I would read books and comics to take me far away from who I was and where I was. It is safe to say that the majority of my boyhood was spent imagining that I was anything but who I was.

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Illustration by John Jennings

An Update to the Brood

We know it has been a while since you have received an update about the visionary sci-fi anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction From Social Justice Movements.

That is because we have been involved in a transition and re-evaluation phase. It’s the end of that phase, and we are so happy to be able to officially announce two incredible things: 1) the final list of contributors to the project, and 2) that AK Press (in conjunction with the Institute for Anarchist Studies) will publish Octavia’s Brood!

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Origins of The N.O.C.: Year One

Believe it or not, today marks the one year anniversary of the official launch of this blog. (While we reposted Bao’s article that inspired the website on August 1, we didn’t officially kick off the site until this post on the 12th.)

A year later, we’ve grown exponentially across our various social media platforms thanks to all of you loyal readers, followers, subscribers, and likers. To mark the occasion, we’re going to look back at the secret origins of all of the NOCs who contributed this past year. Fortunately, our roster continues to grow, so you can keep track of future origin stories by following this tag.

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Have Anarchy and Eat it Too — The Purge: Anarchy Doesn’t Quite Make It

Many of us nerds were bullied as kids, and subsequently we dreamed not of a world without violence, but some sort of payback. Slicing up our tormentors with lightsabers or adamantium claws. Slow motion punching the jock bully in the jaw, hopefully while beautiful women were watching. As we grew older, some of us questioned this desire for retribution, our conditioned response (particularly in straight males) to strike back. But what do we do with these contradictory feelings, our questioning of violence as power against our catharsis when we see the bad guy get his comeuppance?

The Japanese cult classic film Battle Royale looms large in the minds of pop culture nerds ambivalent over our negative reaction to violence and our desire to see stylized versions of it. Battle Royale is almost meta in its questioning of this contradiction: a future Japan is made safe by telecasting, once a year, a brutal contest wherein a random class of young people is set in a trapped zone with weapons, and only one person is allowed to leave alive.

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Why Did I Watch the New Transformers Movie?

I’m out of town, and there’s a movie theater a block from my hotel. As a father, I don’t get to the moviehouse often unless it’s a kid’s movie.  So over the weekend, I figured I’d treat myself to a movie. What’s the worst that can happen? The answer to that question: the theater is only showing Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Even seeing Optimus Prime in his G1 truck mode can’t make up for the three hours this movie steals from your life.

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NOCs of the Roundtable: Kicking Off Cap Week

If you hadn’t heard, a little indie movie called Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened over the weekend, and to no one’s surprise, its $96 million opening shattered box office records left and right. We at The Nerds of Color have been eagerly anticipating the release of The Winter Soldier for months now. Back when the first teaser hit, I was already claiming it as the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And now that it’s at a multiplex near you, we’re going to be celebrating, analyzing, critiquing this game changer of a movie all week.

We’re going to start it off by assembling our own team of top secret agents Nerds around the Roundtable and share our first impressions of the Captain America sequel. Caution: there will be spoilers. Read on at your own risk (but seriously, you should go see this already!)

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NOCs of the Roundtable: Favorite Asian Bad Guys

This week on Hard N.O.C. Life, I’ll be interviewing our buddies Stephen and Patrick from the National Film Society. They just premiered their Kickstarted webseries Awesome Asian Bad Guys to packed houses last week during CAAMFest in San Francisco, and I was lucky enough to have them on to talk about the series. In addition to the NFS guys, I’ll also be speaking with Yuji Okumoto, aka Chozen from The Karate Kid II.

All this talk about Awesome Asian Bad Guys got me thinking about which iconic Asian villains are most beloved by the NOCs. So we assembled around the old roundtable and shared our own Awesome Asian Bad Guys.

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Ready for the World: The Magic of Princess Mononoke & Spirited Away

Around 1987 or ’88, I was in junior high and in a funny stasis where my nerd creativity was beginning to grow out of my bookishness (I routinely wrote awful Dungeons and Dragons-type short stories) but before I collided head first into confronting issues like race, violence, and poverty that was all around my world and in my school (I had no idea that my misplacements in advanced math and ESL had to do with my race). Add this to adolescent hormones and — well, to keep it short, it was rough on many different levels.

For whatever reason, one of our shop class teachers wheeled a TV and VCR into class one day and decided to show us a movie called Warriors of the Wind. Some of my friends were absolutely crazy about it. I thought it was cool, but honestly, I didn’t get it.

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Missing Polygons: Asians, Race, and Video Games

I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember. From my dad giving me four quarters — and no more than that — to spend at a video game arcade, to sleepovers at friends to play Atari 2600, to playing text-based adventure games on the Apple IIe, to helping my friend defeat shadow Link, to Doom to Half Life 2 to Knights of the Old Republic to Plants vs. Zombies to the Last of Us… OK, you get the idea. And for most of my early years, I had no problem that, in roughly 99% of the games I played, the protagonist was either a white male or a white elf or a white looking quasi-human.

It didn’t matter to me because it was drilled into my head that being white was the norm. Which is a bit weird because the neighborhood I grew up in was predominantly working class and poor people of color and American Indian. It wasn’t like I was trying to be like everyone around me (that came later), it was like being white was an escape. Escape from where I was, escape from people of all colors blaming families like mine for the Vietnam war, escape from a rainbow of bullies chasing me and calling me chink. And video games are in many ways the ultimate escape. Even more than films or books, you can get lost in lovingly rendered worlds and realities. You can effect a positive outcome and become a great hero or villain if you work hard and you don’t quit. But you better be OK with playing a white man, because you often won’t have a choice.

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Man of Tai Chi: Keanu and Tiger’s Unlikely Bromance

Many years ago, I watched a bonus feature on a Matrix DVD in which Keanu Reeves seemed to have a bromance with a stuntman and martial arts trainer named Tiger Chen. Slim, petite, and diminutive looking, it was obvious the guy had serious skills. But seeing him next to Reeves, a mixed race, tall and lanky Western movie star, it became apparent that, at least in the West, he’d never be a leading man type. Hollywood likes to train stars and actors in martial arts, not give opportunities to martial artists and stuntmen that don’t fit the Western standard of attractive leading man. Trained martial artists and stuntmen in Hollywood movies, especially the Asian ones, usually get the thankless job of making the lead white actor look really good by acrobatically acting like they’re getting their asses kicked. Tiger looked like the dude who’d be destined to be “Triad Hitman #2” at best. He was, in fact, one of the “vampire” baddies in The Matrix Reloaded.

tigermatrixFast forward almost a decade, and I see on Facebook that my fellow Nerd of Color Keith posted a trailer for a Keanu Reeves directed(!) martial arts film showcasing his homie Tiger. Yes, directed. And he also stars in the film as the lead antagonist, Donaka Mark. These facts alone will probably scare off the majority of people from seeing the film. Which is too bad, because I finally got to see it this weekend, and there is some enjoyment to be had here.

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At the Nerds of Color, Friendship Really is Magic

The other day, the original Nerd of Color, Bao Phi, came by NOC HQ with a very big problem. His four-year-old daughter really needed a comic book, and apparently, it was the Nerds’ fault! Turns out, Uncle Rodrigo gave her a special mini-comic of IDW’s My Little Pony as a gift which quickly became a valuable artifact in the Phi house. Here, I’ll let Bao explain:

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NOCs of the Roundtable: Head Over Heels for Sleepy Hollow

Before the season started, we did an episode of “Hard N.O.C. Life” in which we talked about the shows we were excited for. Sleepy Hollow made the cut, but we speculated that the show would probably be terrible. That said, we were all intrigued by the premise. Several episodes in, and it’s become one of the buzziest shows on television. It’s also one of the most diverse, with article after article pointing to its importance as a bellwether for diversifying TV’s primetime landscape.

Shows what we know for shitting on it back in August. Well, not all of us did. Jason sang the show’s praises as soon as the pilot premiered.

To look back at the first half of Sleepy Hollow‘s debut season, some of the Nerds assembled around the Roundtable once again. Here’s what they think of the show:

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NOCs of the Roundtable: The New Ms. Marvel

Yesterday, Marvel Comics made a splash by announcing the launch of Ms. Marvel #1, written by G. Willow Wilson with art by Adrian Alphona (best known as the co-creator of Marvel’s Runaways). And while launching another Ms. Marvel book isn’t usually big news, the reason for all the attention this time centers around the teenaged girl assuming the mantle — Kamala Khan. In order to process this announcement from Marvel, we convened a “roundtable” of fellow Nerds of Color to talk about their thoughts on this new series from Marvel.

Borne from the childhood experiences of Marvel editor Sana Amanat — who will also edit the new series — Ms. Marvel will tell the story of Kamala, a Pakistani American teen from Jersey City who idolizes Carol Danvers (the original Ms. Marvel who now goes by Captain Marvel). Kamala takes on Danvers’ old codename after she discovers her own shape-shifting super powers. The new Ms. Marvel is part of Marvel’s ongoing quest to spotlight more women and characters of color in their books. After all, Ms. Marvel is coming out on the heels of Mighty Avengers and the all-female mutant X-Men. Overall, I think it’s a net positive to have a high-profile book be fronted with a teenaged girl of color who is also Muslim. Whether or not the narratives inside the pages fall victim to old stereotypes remains to be seen, but I think Marvel deserves credit for making the continued attempts to diversify their superhero roster.

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The Yellow Plague: Asian Americans in Zombie and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

I originally wrote this as a guest post for Angry Asian Man back in 2010. I rewrote it recently for Nerds of Color with some updates. I still have chosen to write more about The Walking Dead comic than the television series, primarily to avoid confusion.

It is appropriate that this is perhaps my last blog entry before I am devoured by the zombies.

It has been eight days since the tragic epidemic first swept through the world and turned most of humanity into the shuffling dead. I have taken refuge in a showroom model tool shed at the local hardware store. I left my small community of survivors to forage for supplies and became trapped here. I am surrounded by zombies, their moans for brains are louder than the tick-ticks of my fingers on the laptop keyboard. I am down to two cans of Lime Diet Shasta and a rapidly dwindling Ziploc bag of pepperoni minis for provisions. The katana I bought off of eBay during that period of my life I was obsessed with the film Ghost Dog has so far failed to live up to its pedigree and has been useless for opening up Hostess cake wrappers, let alone lopping off zombie heads. Note to self: if you survive this zombie apocalypse, buy a samurai sword that at least claims to be made in Japan.

My partner and child are safe. By fortuitous coincidence they were in Alaska when the outbreak hit, and as you know, Alaska is one of the few places on earth where the epidemic has not yet spread. They are safe in the fortified haven of Juneau and are experimenting to see if zombies can be distracted from their hunger for human brains by salmon, rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids…

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Miss Zaigon 2: Zombie Revenge at Cần Thơ

Miss Saigon is a blockbuster musical in which a virginal underage prostitute falls in love with a white G.I., then shoots herself in the stomach so she can sing one last song with him with the hope that the white man will take their biracial child away from all the evil Vietnamese people to a better life in America. Jeff Yang challenged me to write a Zombie imagining of the characters 20 years after the end of the musical, wherein the Vietnamese woman, Kim, comes back as a zombie — and this short story is what I came up with.

The thing about beggars eating a bug to get a rash, I got that from something I read online by Linh Dinh.

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N.O.C. Nerd of Color — Updated for 2013

Thanks Keith for creating this site and inviting me! I revised my 2010 Origin Story for 2013. Check it out:

I’ve told this story a million times: when I was young, my father kept me off the streets and saved much needed money buying me the toys I wanted by getting me a library card and teaching me to walk to the Franklin Avenue library, and there began my love of books and stories.

What I’ve written less about is the books I gravitated towards: books about mythological monsters, Greek gods and heroes, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Lord of the Rings, my older sister’s Elfquest collection and X-Men comic books. And the secret of many a nerd of color from the ‘hood: my lifelong devotion with role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, and Vampire: the Masquerade.

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NOCs (Nerds of Color)

The following is the original column by Bao that inspired this website.

Originally posted at The Star Tribune on January 20, 2010

I’ve told this story a million times: when I was young, my father kept me off the streets and saved much needed money buying me the toys I wanted by getting me a library card and teaching me to walk to the Franklin Avenue library, and there began my love of books and stories.

What I’ve written less about is the books I gravitated towards: books about mythological monsters, Greek gods and heroes, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Lord of the Rings, my older sister’s Elfquest collection and X-Men comic books. And the secret of many a nerd of color from the ‘hood: my lifelong devotion with role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, and Vampire: the Masquerade (making vampire fixations embarrassing long before Stephanie Meyer).

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