MH370: The Plane That Disappeared Documentary Review

Traveling via plane is a safe way to get to a faraway destination. But then there are accidents every once in a while that catches the attention and imagination of the world.

In March 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (also known as MH370) took off from the airport in Kuala Lumpur. The final destination was Beijing. The plane never arrived at its final destination. For nine years, the questions about what happened to the plane and the 239 souls aboard have yet to be answered.

The new three-part Netflix documentary MH370: The Plane That Disappeared follows the existing breadcrumbs to try to understand exactly what happened. Interviewing family members, experts, journalists, and others leads the viewer down the path of various theories.

What got me was the emotion of the story and the heartbreaking tales from the family members who have yet to have a concrete explanation. Unlike Lost or Manifest, this is not fiction. These are real people who are hurting and desperately craving peace of mind.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

MH370: The Plane That Disappeared is available for streaming on Netflix.

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A Stone Is Most Precious Where it Belongs: A Memoir of Uyghur Exile, Hope, and Survival Book Review

When all is lost, hope is the only thing that keeps us alive.

A Stone Is Most Precious Where it Belongs: A Memoir of Uyghur Exile, Hope, and Survival, by Gulchehra Hoja, was published last month. Born in 1973 to an Uyghur family in East Turkestan, her childhood was a normal one. But as she got older, the Chinese government began to tighten its grip on her people and other minorities. A historian of the Uyghurs by birth, she was proud of who and where she came from.

As a young woman, she became a local celebrity and an icon of her community. But, as she began to understand what the government was doing, she began to ask questions. These questions forced her to flee and make her way to America while those she loved were being persecuted.

Wow. This book is amazing. This memoir is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Her bravery alone is worth the read. She could have remained silent, even after leaving everything and everyone behind. But instead, she is speaking out, knowing full well that her family and friends will pay the price.

What Ms. Hoja is doing should inspire us all to speak up against injustice and those who are discriminated against because they are different.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

A Stone Is Most Precious Where it Belongs: A Memoir of Uyghur Exile, Hope, and Survival is available wherever books are sold.

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Night Angels: A Novel Book Review

When the shit hits the fan, there are two choices. The first is to go with the flow. The second is to do what is right, even when it is not the easiest path to take.

Night Angels: A Novel, by Weina Dai Randel, was published at the beginning of the month. Based on a true story, the book starts in 1938. Dr. Ho Feng-Shan is the Chinese ambassador working and living in Vienna. Joining him are his son and his American bi-racial wife, Grace. She is unaccustomed and unsure of the obligations of her position.

Grace’s perspective changes when she meets and becomes friends with Lola Schnitzler. Lola is Jewish. Her job is to teach Grace how to speak German. What starts off as a business relationship turns into a friendship. The problem is that the official line from her husband’s superior is to remain neutral.

Dr. Ho changes his mind after the one-two punch of a pogrom and Kristallnacht. He is determined to save as many as he can. But with pressure coming from those above him and Nazi leadership, he has a decision to make. He can either stop what he is doing or listen to his conscious.

This book is amazing. Dr. Ho is listed among the Righteous Among the Nations and truly deserves it. He not only saved thousands of lives, but he also opened the door for the descendants of those who he saved to come into existence.

The narrative switches between the three main characters: Grace, Lola, and Dr. Ho. Though it is writing-wise, a difficult task, the author pulls it off flawlessly. As the tension ratchets up, the protagonist’s options become more dangerous. The question is, who will get out alive, and whose lives will be taken?

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Night Angels: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

Republican Fuckery Part IX: MTG Complains About Her Salary, the Balloon, and TX Banning the Abortion Pill

In both life and politics, there is no rule that we have to get along and agree on everything all of the time. However, there are certain times when compromise and understanding where the other person is coming from is paramount.

Recently Marjorie Taylor Greene complained about her salary. This woman makes a healthy 6 figure income. There are millions of Americans (myself included) whose paychecks don’t even come close to hers. If she is so unhappy, she should resign and let someone take the job who is in for the right reasons.

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Speaking of MTG, she accused Mitch McConnell of being a Democrat. In her world, the “d” word is an insult. By directing it at McConnell, she is basically saying that he is not MAGA enough for her.

Over the last couple of weeks, several balloons of unknown origin have been sighed across the US. According to new reports, all signs point to China. The right has accused the President of letting the first one float across the country before shooting it down when it was over the Atlantic ocean.

I would love to know where else it might have been shot down without potentially damaging property or killing someone? Even in the most rural of areas, there was still the chance that an innocent life could have been taken.

And finally, in Texas (because they have nothing better to do?) a District Judge possibly has the power to enshrine a national ban on the abortion pill. It’s one thing to try to push this archaic law on the residents of his own state. It is beyond reprehensible that he can do the same for the rest of the country.

What I don’t get is that these people would do anything to prevent abortion. But, when it comes to providing adequate parental leave that prevents the new parents from going into debt, they are silent.

I hate to say it, but I miss the days when Republicans were reasonable and at least pretended to work with their colleagues on the left. Those days are sadly, in the rearview mirror.

Why Didn’t You Tell Me?: A Memoir Book Review

Our family trees are more than dates and images. They are also stories that are passed down from one generation to the next. The question is, which stories are true and which are not?

Why Didn’t You Tell Me?: A Memoir, by journalist Carmen Rita Wong was published last month. Born in New York City, Wong is the daughter of immigrants. Her father came from China and her mother came from the Dominican Republic. From an early age, she could not shake the need to be included.

After her parents divorced, her mother remarried, moved to New Hampshire and had four more daughters. Other than her brother, Wong was one of the only children of color. As she grew up, Wong’s relationship with her mother, Lupe became difficult. Little did she know what secrets her mother had kept and the bombshells they would create upon being revealed.

This memoir is fantastic. Wong’s story is American, human, and complicated. I loved the semi-normality of her childhood and the questions that naturally came with the revelations of who her father really is. At the end of the day, it is a story of the choices we make (especially as parents) and the fallout of those decisions.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Why Didn’t You Tell Me?: A Memoir is available wherever books are sold.

Turning Red Movie Review

Every birthday is special. But among the milestone birthdays, the day we turn thirteen is the first that represents a change in our lives. The subtle and not-so-subtle shift from childhood to young adult starting at this age is complicated for both the young person and their parent(s).

Turning Red is the newest release from DisneyPlus. Meilin (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), has recently turned thirteen. The daughter of a Chinese immigrant family who made a new life in Canada, she is smart, confident, and driven. Meilin is also on the verge of puberty (i.e. menstruation) and everything that comes with it. While she is on the slow road to becoming an adult, her mother, Ming (voiced by Sandra Oh), would prefer to keep her child from growing up.

One morning, Meilin wakes up and sees a giant red panda in the mirror. Her parents sit her down and reveal a long-held family secret. Upon reaching the age at which she starts to become a woman, every female in her family turns into a red panda. Any extreme emotion, either good or bad, will facilitate the transformation. Torn between wanting to please her mother and starting to take the first step on the figurate path to independence, Meilin has to make certain choices that we all had to make back then.

I loved this movie. I love that Meilin is a dork and proud of it. I love that that she looks like a normal girl and not the preteen version of a supermodel. I love the diversity and the strong female role models, both on the screen and behind the scenes. Though she does develop romantic feelings (well, as much as one can at the age), it is not the crux of the story.

The heart of this narrative is the push and pull between Meilin and Ming. Ming is not a bad mother. The idea that Meilin is no longer clinging to her 24/7 is an idea that her mind cannot compute. Directed and co-written by Domee Shi, this film has heart, humor, and fully human female characters.

Though it is not without controversy. Some parents have complained that that analogy of a girl getting her period is inappropriate. First of all, this is the color of the animal’s fur. It’s not like Mother Nature purchased a box of hair dye and decided to paint this creature red. Second of all, this is a normal process. Without the monthly visit of our friends, we would not be able to carry and birth the next generation. The fact that it is 2022 and some adults are afraid to talk about this topic speaks volumes about our culture.

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Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also venture to say that I wouldn’t be surprised if Turning Red was on several “Best Of” lists come the end of the year.

Turning Red is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

Found Review

We all want to know where and who we come from. Someone who is raised by their birth family can easily answer this question. Those who are adopted may not be able to come up with that same information as easily.

The 2021 Netflix documentary, Found, follows three young ladies who were born during the one-child policy era in China. Living in orphanages as babies because of their gender, they were each adopted and raised by Anglo-American parents. Finding each other via a DNA test, they travel to the land of their birth, hoping to find blood relatives.

This film is touching and beautiful. I felt for these young women, whose lives were forever altered simply because they were born girls and not boys. I loved their connection, it was the emotional throughline that kept me watching. Throughout the movie, I was crossing my fingers, hoping that their deepest wish would come true.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Found is available for streaming on Netflix.

The 2022 Olympics & the Uyghur Torch Bearer: History Repeats Itself

Human history is cyclical. The details may change, but the general narrative is static.

As is standard practice at the beginning of every Olympic season, the games are opened by a couple of torchbearers. As I write this, this year’s competition is held in Beijing, China. According to many journalists and media outlets, this nation has a long list of human rights abuses.

Among them is the treatment of the Uyghurs. In an attempt to quell the criticism and prove the rest of the world wrong, a Uyghur athlete was one of the competitors chosen to light the torch during the opening ceremonies. If the Chinese government thought that this would silence its critics, they were wrong.

Eighty-six years ago, Berlin was the host city for the Olympics. Like the Chinese government, the Nazi-run German government needed to put on a good face for visiting contenders and officials. They did so by “allowing” fencer Helene Mayer to compete. Her father was Jewish, her mother was not. According to the Nazi racial Laws, Mayer was a mischling. Though she was classified as a Jew and had Jewish lineage via her father, Mayer did not consider herself to be Jewish.

If history is any indicator, we have an opportunity to save lives and prevent another Holocaust. The question is, what is the rest of the world going to do? Are they going to sit idly by while innocent people are being slaughtered? Or will they step up and make it clear that what the Chinese are doing is unacceptable?

Only time will tell, but I hope that they will finally do the right thing.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

Movies and/or television shows that are based on comic books have been part of our modern entertainment era for decades. What is important is the balance between the source material and the enjoyment of the audience.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released into theaters a few weeks ago. Based on the comic book of the same name, we are initially introduced to twenty something Shaun (Simu Liu). Living in San Francisco, he and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) earn their living parking cars. Reality intervenes when Shaun’s ancient warlord father Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) send his goons to bring his son back to China. On the plane, Shaun tells Katy that his real name is Shang-Chi and the truth about his family. Meeting up with his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), they have to come together to defeat their father and prevent an even greater disaster from occurring.

I loved this movie. Though I have no knowledge of the narrative or the character arcs within the books themselves, I can say with certainty that the film adaption is superb. I loved the balance of the comedy and the action. The female characters who surround Shang are not sitting in the background, waiting to be rescued. They are as important to the action as the male characters. The one role that stood out to me was Xu Wenwu. He is akin to Anakin Skywalker in that his intentions are good, but his actions are not exactly on the up and up.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently in theaters.

Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History Book Review

History is an interesting thing. We may not realize that we are going through it until it passes us by.

Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History, by Washington Post writers Yasmeen Abutaleb¬†and Damian Paletta was published in June. In the book, the authors describe with fastidious detail how the former Presidential administration not only politicized Covid-19, but how the egos and careers of certain officials led to the public health and economic catastrophe that is our reality.

Starting with early 2020 and ending last the fall, we start the narrative when it was just a mysterious flu like sickness that appeared to arrive from China. As the months pass and number of cases and deaths rise, the revelations of mismanagement, lack of communication, in-fighting and political bullshit allowed the virus to take hold and kill over half a million Americans.

Reading this book felt like it was a ticking time bomb. It was just a matter of time before all of the elements would come together and explode into chaos and destruction. What made me angry is that the fate of the American people was put aside to ensure that a small handful of individuals remained in power, regardless of the damage that was created in its wake.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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