I’m Fine With the Accents on “Fresh Off the Boat”

Yesterday I watched the first two episodes of Fresh Off the Boat, a sitcom loosely based on the childhood of Eddie Huang. It’s the first network show in 20 years starring an Asian-American family. The previous one, Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl, didn’t do too well, so anticipation and expectations were high for Fresh Off the Boat.

Last year when the first teasers came out for the show, viewers’ reactions included some concern about the accents of the parents, played by Constance Wu and Randall Park. To me, the accents did indeed sound off-key, but based on everything else I saw, I reserved judgment. I figured maybe I wasn’t familiar enough with Taiwanese accents, since I’m more used to the Hong Kong accents in my own family.

Mainly I wanted to take the attitude that I take with Apple product announcements. Whatever optimism or doubts I may have, I always reserve final judgment until I’ve had hands-on experience. I learned my lesson about that in 2007, when Apple shipped the first iPhone. I was excited about it but thought I could hold off on getting one. I figured I’d wait for other people to find the bugs and for Apple to work out any manufacturing glitches. But then a friend let me play with his iPhone, and I was immediately hooked. The hands-on experience far exceeded my expectations. Minutes later, my friend walked me to the Apple Store and I bought my own iPhone.

This week ABC “shipped” the first two episodes of Fresh Off the Boat and I finally got to go “hands-on”. And you know what? I loved the show so much I watched both episodes twice. The show is honest about race — there’s a scene in the pilot episode that I think people will be talking about for a long time — but at heart it’s a funny show with some poignant moments and some moments of dark humor (though not too dark; remember, this is ABC, not HBO). The narration by the real Eddie Huang adds great depth to the flavor of the show.

I found that the more I watched, the less I cared about the accents. They might be pitch-perfect, or they might be as questionable as James Doohan’s impression of a Scot. I’m still not sure, but I don’t care any more because I like the characters, and I like them just as they are. I doubt most of non-Asian America will care either.

Put it this way: I find Jackie Chan’s genuine accent way more distracting than I ever found Wu’s and Park’s simulated ones, and I still love Jackie Chan movies.

On Tim Cook being “the first”

Alanna Petroff, writing for CNN.com:

It’s a landmark moment for both the gay community and the business world. Tim Cook is now the first and only openly gay chief executive in the Fortune 500.

Of course, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered employees still struggle with discrimination at work. The executive suite also remains extremely closeted, but there are a few high-ranking openly gay businesspeople.

Not to detract from their accomplishments or their struggles, but none of these examples come close to Tim Cook in terms of power or visibility. It’s like pointing out the US had prominent black politicians before Obama; not to take away from any of them, but there is a clear difference. Cook is the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and it’s a company with a track record the other 499 would kill to have.

I remember when “Apple is so gay” was a common juvenile taunt. For all I know, it still is. Regardless, times have changed, and we should all be comfortable responding to that taunt with “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Radar’s UI For Entering New Issues

UI rule of thumb: use the biggest buttons for the most likely actions.

UI rule of thumb: Convey a sense of progression by putting a sequence of steps in a row or column, one after another.

Corollary to that second rule of thumb: Having led the user through a list of actions, don’t make the last thing on the list “Cancel everything I just did”, because that is very likely not what they want.

Pop quiz: How many of the above rules of thumb does Radar break here?

Extra credit: Did you think to yourself, “On iOS it’s normal for the ‘Done’ button to be at the top right corner, so this makes perfect sense”? Or did you think to yourself, “This is not iOS”?

Radar new issue UI

UPDATE 2014-09-09: Great news from Zach Drayer:

Just a Tool

When it comes to the “Mac or PC” question, I am not neutral. It’s more that I decided at a certain point to wash my hands of the business of telling people which to buy. I am not the right person to ask, if only because I lack perspective, and I will avoid that conversation whenever possible. When pressed, I will say “Buy what’s right for you”, because that really is sound advice.

What I never say is “It’s just a tool.” To be honest, that sentence makes me feel a little sick and sad inside. Like many people who live by their tools, I feel there is no such thing as “just a tool”.

The Power of Unoriginal Storytelling

A friend posted this video on Facebook:

The video tells a story, but its purpose goes beyond storytelling: it is a marketing tactic used by a company that sells copywriting services. The blind man represents potential clients, the pedestrians are potential customers of those clients, and the mysterious woman represents Purplefeather.

According to the description on YouTube it is an “[h]omage to Historia de un letrero, The Story of a Sign by Alonso Alvarez Barreda”, where “homage” really means “remake”. You could argue that it was sleazy of Purplefeather to rip off the earlier film. You could also argue that there’s nothing wrong with a remake, especially when the source is itself a retelling of a previously told story. Regardless, I’m not sure why Purplefeather wouldn’t demonstrate its copywriting skills by writing something original.

Something else feels off to me: I’ve seen comments in various places describing the story as “beautiful” and “powerful”, but to me, the core message of the story is not particularly heartwarming or inspiring. The good samaritan is kind of a jerk, altering the sign without permission and without telling the blind man what it says. And the good samaritan as a proxy for the storyteller (i.e., the filmmaker) seems a bit self-congratulatory, as if saying to the audience, “Aren’t you glad I taught you this lesson about marketing?”

To me it is an interesting parable about human nature, but the same point could have been made with the “blind” man actually being a con artist whose “sales” have been slumping until he himself comes up with the clever marketing tactic. Different story with the same lesson: how you convey your message affects the material rewards it will get you. And perhaps a secondary lesson: people want to be compassionate, but sometimes you have to sell them a little on the idea.

On the other hand, “Historia de un letrero” was a winner at Cannes in 2008, I suspect because it was seen as heartwarming. Maybe the filmmakers would not have won if they had told my con-artist version of the story. So maybe the story is itself a demonstration that how you convey your message matters — even when the message is that “How you convey your message matters.”