Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Can Empathy Solve Class Conflict? A Brief Analysis of Houston Coley's Review of Parasite


About a month ago, rising YouTube star, writer, and filmmaker Houston Coley penned a piece reviewing the movie Parasite. His conclusions were essentially that the movie forces us to be empathetic towards both rich and poor, and that, in the end, violence isn't the solution to solving wealth and class inequality. Coley's implication seems to be that change cannot occur from the bottom-up—instead it must flow from the top-down. He states as much when he concludes with the following:

"I think many of us, including those who belong to the middle-class, probably have a level of self-inflicted ignorance toward the margins, too. When you start to feel empathy for the have-nots, it often demands action, and that’s scary. But if Parasite does anything in the lives of the middle and high-class people who see it, I hope it shines a light on those margins, creating empathy and demanding action."

While I had other problems with the review—primarily how it side-steps the role that race and ethnicity play in creating class division in South Korea—I'll focus the bulk of this article on analyzing the claim that we should rely on the empathy of the middle and upper classes to create positive change in society.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Rise of Skywalker Review - A New Chosen One


It's been twenty years since the first time I stepped into a theater to watch Star Wars. As with most kids, I left in amazement, and immediately asked my parents for a toy lightsaber so that I could pretend I was Obi-Wan or Qui-Gon. Soon after that I discovered that there was a whole universe of Star Wars stories beyond Episode I, which I voraciously consumed via old VHS copies of A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. This led to me consuming Star Wars through other forms of media, like books and video games, with my favorite of the latter being the Knights of the Old Republic games.

By the time Revenge of the Sith came out, I was a certified Star Wars fanatic. That movie, while it has its problems, is still my favorite Star Wars film to date (something that is probably true of the majority of my generation). The lightsaber battles, the characters, seeing the fall of Anakin Skywalker happen before my eyes—all of these combined to create an experience I would never forget. Even to this day I make sure to watch Revenge of the Sith at least once a year.

When Disney announced the creation of a new Star Wars trilogy, I was very excited. While I was a bit concerned that it would ruin the conclusion of Episode VI, I went into watching Episode VII with an open mind, and was mostly pleased with the result. Episode VIII certainly subverted my expectations, as it did for most people, but at the time I left the theater feeling fairly satisfied, albeit slightly perturbed by the lack of lightsaber duels.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Big Brother 19 Cast in Retrospect

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Two years ago I went over why Big Brother 19 was hard to watch, and why, as a result, I thought that Cody should win America's Favorite Player. With Big Brother 21 wrapping up in a week, I figured now might be a good time to take a look back at what was (before BB21) perhaps the most controversial cast in Big Brother history. 

For the purpose of this article I will only be analyzing the Big Brother 19 cast members who I thought were particularly controversial, close to Paul, and made it to jury. 

With that said, let's begin with everyone's favorite...

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

iPhone 6S Plus 2019 Review

With the world abuzz about the soon-to-be-released iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, I thought that it would be prudent to write an article about iPhones (something I haven't done since I compared iPhones and Androids several years ago).

In particular, I want to take a look at what it's like to use an "old" iPhone like the 6S Plus in 2019, since it's what I and many other people currently use, despite multiple generations of iPhones separating it from the devices being released on September 20th. 

The short answer is this: the 6S Plus is still pretty good. However, it's starting to become just bad enough to where I'm considering upgrading to the iPhone 11. With all that said, let's jump right into talking about the pros and cons of owning an iPhone 6S Plus in 2019. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Super Rich Problem

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It has become trendy within the past few years to blame all of the country's problems on the "super rich," roughly defined (by me) as those making more than a couple million dollars per year. And yet, while I would agree that they are in large part responsible for today's lack of social mobility, worsening income inequality, and more, I would argue that blaming them for everything risks misdirecting from another problem. 

What am I referring to? The apathy of the so-called "upper-middle class." Personally, I would define this as individuals making around $100,000 a year, or families making a combined income upwards of $200,000 a year (depending on where you live of course, adjust the numbers upwards if you are living somewhere like San Francisco).

While it is true that these people don't have as much power and influence individually as the super rich, I think that, as a collective, they pretty much shape the direction of politics in the United States via their combined purchasing power and influence over those of us who are less fortunate than they are.

And I think the problem here is that this class of folks too often uses the "super rich" as a scapegoat to excuse their own political inaction. They take the stance that, because they aren't Jeff Bezos, they aren't going to affect change to the same extent. This results in them bowing out of the political game, choosing to sit on the sidelines rather than to take steps to ensure that society moves forward. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

With GreedFall, Spiders Has Replaced Bioware

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***This post has been updated to include new comments from the author***

Hi all: short update for today. At the end of August I wrote an article about GreedFall, which, at the time, was an upcoming roleplaying game being made by Spiders scheduled to release on September 10th. Soon after I wrote that piece, I decided to preorder GreedFall (something I practically never do—the last time was for Mass Effect: Andromeda). On Tuesday I received my copy in the mail. These are my initial thoughts.

First things first: WOW. I have nothing but good things to say about GreedFall, and I haven't even left the first city yet (for those of you who have played Knights of the Old Republic, think of it as GreedFall's version of Taris). Immediately, the game demonstrates its strengths. The first few main quests you complete branch off into several side quests, each of which can be completed in a variety of manners and offers as much moral complexity as the best side quests in The Witcher 3.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

My Experience With Racism On Twitter

I blocked out this person's username to protect their privacy.

A few days ago I witnessed firsthand just how racist this country can be. To give you the short version, this is how things went down: I replied to a Tweet written by UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich advocating for the removal of the Electoral College. In my reply I agreed with Professor Reich, noting how the Electoral College works to the advantage of states with populations that lean towards a conservative political perspective. I also compared the Electoral College to the 3/5ths Compromise, in that the Electoral College serves to empower states with conservative views much to the same extent that the 3/5ths Compromise empowered slave states in the lead-up to the Civil War.

For about twelve hours nothing came of it besides a few likes and comments supporting what I said. Then it happened. A tidal wave of conservatives descended on my Tweet, and all of the sudden my notifications were flooded with people saying things like "you don't know the constitution, boy," or some variant of that. Other people made the ironic choice to laud the Electoral College as a symbol of freedom while simultaneously defending the 3/5ths Compromise and downplaying its effect on slave state's political power.

Perhaps the most racist reply I received is the one screenshotted above. In it the person does a few things. They first mock my intelligence by implying that I should know better as a "history phd candidate." They then claim that I said the Electoral College is racist, which I never did. Next they pat my head and tell me that, because I am of the "Philippines population" I must not comprehend "American" politics (implying Filipinos can't be true Americans). Then they question my legality, assuming that because I'm brown, Filipino, and have the last name Garcia, I must be undocumented, and thus, lesser than them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Will Hayden Christensen Return in Rise of Skywalker?

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So I watched the new Star Wars trailer this week, as many of you did. But I think my main takeaway was probably different from most. The most shocking thing to me in that trailer was not the presence of "Dark Rey," which I'd figured might happen since the release of episode VII. No, what was surprising to me was the use of so many scenes from the prequels.

Why did that shock me? Well let's think back to episode VII and VIII for a moment. What kinds of references did we get to the prequels? Ewan McGregor's disembodied voice? A line of dialogue about Palpatine's rise to power? Meanwhile, those who grew up with the original trilogy were inundated with references and callbacks to episodes IV, V, and VI.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Is GreedFall the Bioware RPG We've Been Waiting For?

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If you think about it, this is the first time in a long time that Bioware has failed to provide us with an industry-defining roleplaying game within a given console generation. During the original Xbox era, Bioware provided us with two classics, Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire. For the Xbox 360 and PS3, Bioware crafted Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Origins, two games often hailed as the pinnacle of western RPGs.

For the PS4 and Xbox One, Bioware has largely flopped. Their one success was Dragon Age: Inquisition, though it's a cross-generation title as well as a sequel, so I'm not sure if it counts. It's also an "open world" game, which in my opinion went too far away from what Bioware's strengths are. The other two games they released were even more problematic. Mass Effect: Andromeda failed to capture one iota of the original trilogy's storytelling brilliance, and Anthem is already dead in the water six months after it launched as EA's flagship "live service" gaming experience.

But this isn't an article focused on critiquing Bioware. That's already been done to death, and I think at this point we can all agree that the Bioware we all knew and loved is gone forever. No, this article is about the game GreedFall, and whether it might serve as a proper heir to Bioware's masterpieces.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

You Will Hate World of Warcraft Classic

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I started playing World of Warcraft in August 2005, having received it as a birthday gift. At the time, it was the only game kids at my middle school would talk about. I remember sitting on the bus in 7th grade on my way home from school, and all around me everything I heard was World of Warcraft related. Literally everyone was playing it (or Halo 2, but by then the hype for that was dying down a bit).

When I first fired up World of Warcraft on a crappy hand-me-down Dell Latitude laptop, I was entranced. It was the first mmorpg I had played that made me feel like I was in an entirely different world. Sure, I had played Runescape before, but that was a browser-based game with a top-down perspective that gave you limited control over your player and your perspective.

World of Warcraft, by comparison, was a completely different animal. You could actually control your character, rather than pointing and clicking. Combat felt sensational; you could feel the power coursing through your character's veins as you launched firebolts at unsuspecting kobolds. Everywhere you went felt like it was fully-realized, with stories waiting to be told, friends to meet, quests to complete, and gear to obtain.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Can An Auto-Generated Superteam Beat Lonzo Ball and the Lakers?

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This is an accurate representation of how good Lonzo was for me in NBA 2K19.

Each year I buy the newest iteration of NBA 2K, probably against my better judgement. As most know, at this point it's pretty much just a cash-grab rushed out to take advantage of the hype surrounding the upcoming NBA season. Microtransactions have ruined most of its game modes, and each year more features seem to be taken out than they are put in.

Luckily, the sole reason I play NBA 2K is for its MyLeague mode, which allows you to run all aspects of an NBA team for multiple decades, if you so choose. And thankfully, MyLeague continues to be updated on a yearly basis, unlike other 2K game modes that have been allowed to wither and die.

One of the things that I like to do is to construct unrealistic scenarios in MyLeague, and see how they play out over a few decades. The scenario this time was as follows: bend the rules to create a super superteam, and wait to see how long it took for the league to develop a team capable of beating it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Corridor Crew Review

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From left to right: Wren, Sam, Niko, Jake, and David of The Corridor Crew. Credit to them for the graphic.

YouTube has a lot of problems. Namely, it's full of pseudo-intellectuals who fail at towing the line between entertainment and education. Facts and quality analysis matter less to these people than views and clicks do. Charlatans abound.

And yet, thankfully, The Corridor Crew manages to transcend that morass of misinformation in a way that often matches or exceeds the best of what YouTube has to offer. The quality of their videos is so good, in fact, that you almost feel bad about the fact that you don't have to pay to watch them. 

Yet, even so, The Corridor Crew has a big problem. Something that might even be called a fatal flaw.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Humanities as a Force Multiplier

Earlier this week I witnessed something special. I watched as my partner delivered a lecture
to an audience of mostly STEM majors about the importance of Filipinas in Filipino and Filipino-American history. As the presentation reached its crescendo, I saw multiple undergraduate's eyes light up, thoroughly enraptured by a subject they had never before considered. After the lecture's end, a group of STEM undergraduates approached my partner, asking her questions and telling her that she had changed how they would view their own work. It was then that something clicked for me. I thought to myself, “this is why the humanities matter.”

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Why Higher Education Needs The Humanities

How most people in the general public respond when you say that you are studying the humanities.

Somewhere down the line, higher education lost its soul. College became less about education and more about "experiences." Tuition rates skyrocketed, tenured professors were replaced by legions of underpaid adjuncts, and administrative bloat exploded as we decided to make higher education more about building fancy gyms, gigantic football stadiums, and opulent study spaces, all while packing them with as many students as possible. Indeed, we now care less about trying to teach poor students who want to learn, and more about getting money from wealthy students who can afford to pay exorbitant fees. How did this happen, and how do we fix it? 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Book Review - Pinay Guerrilleras: The Unsung Heroics of Filipina Resistance Fighters During the Pacific War

All good history books have a few things in common: they open your mind to new perspectives, uncover stories never before told, and, perhaps most importantly, leave you with a desire to delve deeper into its subject. Pinay Guerrilleras: The Unsung Heroics of Filipina Resistance Fighters During the Pacific War is one of those books. With it, author Stacey Anne Baterina Salinas has revealed how Filipino women were instrumental in ousting the Japanese from the Philippines during World War II.

Indeed, Filipinas served as guerrilla fighters within Philippine jungles, created and maintained communication and supply networks between villages sympathetic to the resistance, and tended to their compatriots' wounds as nurses.

Some women, like Colonel Yay Panlilio, played an important role as leaders within the resistance, dictating strategy and directing guerrillas in battle. Unfortunately, as Salinas notes, Filipina resistance leaders were often disrespected by their male subordinates, and, even today, many of their successes have been wrongly attributed to male resistance leaders.

About The Author

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Nicholas Garcia (M.A.) is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Davis. He is also a Co-Founder of the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. Previously, he contributed to Lifehack.org and the Davis Humanities Institute.