Category Archives: Extra Credit

A smothering world

The television series, The Handmaid’s Tale that created by Bruce Miller which was based on the novel written by a Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood was released in April, 2017. This television series highly restored what exactly telling in the book and reflected a creepy society with totalitarian. The authority of divine rights, imaginary freedom and the absolute authority of men and different ruling classes were vividly showed in this television series.

A smothering atmosphere was fulfilled in the entire television series, the first episode started with a violent scene which was several armed men chased a woman named June and her daughter, Hannah and took away her daughter from her eventually. She was also taken to the place called red center and trained by Aunt Lydia to be a handmaid. As June, now was named Offred mentioned, “I had another name, but it’s forbidden now. So many things are forbidden now.” Here strongly shows how exactly she feels from this place which full of imaginary freedom. And in the scene of giving lessons to the handmaids by aunt Lydia, she complains about the old society in United States on the birth control pills, morning-after pills and murdering babies as the reasons for downward of birthrates. The word “ordinary” later conclude how they live after in this world. As Offred tells at the end of the episode, “someone’s watch, here someone’s always watching, nothing can change, it all has to look the same.” The world here has restricted their real freedom and fool them with their imaginary freedom. This is not what they desired but they can just accept this .

The second episode was even worst than what it showed in the first, Offred used a lot of flashbacks and aside to reflect what she feel from bottom of her heart. She is not feeling comfortable in this world at all. She was convinced to join Ofglen because she feels comfortable talking to her, however, Ofglen was replaced by another woman at the end and Offred feels extremely dissatisfied with that. They don’t have the rights to read and talk about the news, between them, they can only discuss about the weather and some word from the bible such as “Blessed be the fruit” and “May the lord open”. They  were always being watched by the “Eyes”, not only women, and some other men from lower classes were being judged by them also. There was no privacy and no choice for them at all. Through out the whole episode was just a smothering atmosphere of society, a society that full of the smell of deaths.



Friendly reminder: You can actually watch The Handmaid’s Tale for free on this link attached below, just ignored the all Chinese words surrounded and click on the episode number only to watch whatever episode you wanted.It was with mix subtitle, English and Chinese. There was 65 seconds for the advertisement, too. Just be a little patient.


Handmaid’s Tale the Series; Differences and Similarities.

After reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and upon watching the first two episodes of the adapted series i have to say that there are definitely different approaches that the directors decided to take compared to the novel. The story stays true to some degree while only changing the timeline in some events; for example, On episode 2 Oflgen has been replaced by a new Ofglen, the memories of her trying to escape with Luke and even her time in the red center and memories of Moira are given to us much early on in the show. Ofglen as we should all know was a form of whisperer in the sense that she had some form of network and at the very least pretended like she knew something. Perhaps she did and that was the reason she was replaced. i was surprised to see her memories of everything that had happened to her so soon but i can see that it can allow us the people watching the show, whether we have read the book or not, to become aware of the consequences of rebelling to the authority of Gilead. One vicious scene that showed the people watching the stakes of rebelling was when Ofwarren had said a smart remark towards Aunt Lydia and even giving Aunt Lydia the good old F Bomb, The consequences was to become completely broken and having an eyeball plucked out from her eye socket. Moira is a character that has been so full of life and ready to speak her mind yet she herself is complying to the rules because she understands the stakes. Rebelling can lead to death. These kind of consequences are very similar to the novel. A lot of things can lead to death and i can appreciate that because it can lead to a lot of suspense as we watch these characters struggle to keep their sanity. One surprising difference however was actually the very beginning. The series heavily implies that Luke had died trying to escape but in the novel it still is implied that he died but there were no gunshots fired, in fact Offred is more sure that he is dead in the series while in the novel she has hope that he survived. The scenes where we get to see the commander and Serena Joy are a bit different as well. To begin, Offred meets them basically at the same time while Serena gets her first piece telling Offred ” if she gets trouble she’ll give trouble”. The commander looks fairly young in the series as well not like as if he was in his twenties but the novel certainly makes him appear older than how he was shown in the series. This is clearly an adaptation to appease some type of audience somewhere. I can appreciate their efforts.  I also appreciate how certain quotes from the novel are salvaged into the series since some of these quotes are powerful. One of the powerful quotes was when Offred is describing the furniture in her room and the shatterproof glass and how it only opens a little bit, that it is not because they are afraid that the handmaids will run because they will certainly catch them but they don’t want the handmaid’s to take the easy way out with suicide using shattered glass. This to me is so powerful because it tells the viewers that the handmaid’s are definitely valuable yet they don’t care how they feel and that there is no easy way out. Overall as someone who has read the novel and now watching the show i can see the changes made for the series and do appreciate the content given.

a better picture

The Hulu series of The Handmaid’s Tale was much different than the novel, as expected. It was more face paced (in the first two episodes, which is all I have seen thus far). I enjoy how Offred is portrayed, it’s better than I imagined while reading the novel. She seems so strong but she doesn’t hide the care she has for some of the characters that she is surrounded by. The ceremony, on the other hand, was much more awkward than I thought it would be. The anger and tension between the commander’s wife and Offred are off the charts. In the novel, I do recall how Offred was treated but it was never this bad. My favorite scene was in episode one when the handmaids punish the man that raped a woman and lead to her having a miscarriage. This was only my favorite scene because of Offred’s burst. She wanted to let out a scream from the beginning since she had arrived in the society. At that very moment, she FINALLY was able to let out all of her anger, sadness, and pain onto another man, Causing him pain and death. I honestly think that although it is obvious that she blacked out the moment the whistle was blown, she didn’t mean to cause that much harm to the man. I think she just wanted someone else to feel as hurt and dead inside as she does.

Another interesting thing was what happened to Luke, I don’t recall him being shot in front of Offred and their child in the novel, but, if that was something new then if definitely kept me interested to see what happens next with Offred and how she’ll handle situations.

I also liked how the characters were changed to fit into the show better, it’s small details but it’s very noticeable and enjoyable. Although this novel/show is not my type… It wasn’t that bad.

The Importance of Science Fiction

On Wednesday, December 6th City Tech held the second annual Science Fiction Symposium. I’ll be honest I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the second session due to school and work. The talks during the second session covered a wide variety of topics, ranging from science (obviously) to politics, philosophy and even design.

One of my favorite parts was during Adam Heidebrink-Bruno’s, “Structural Violence of Late Capitalism and the Limiting of Radical Imagination” when Bruno critiqued the “ideological purity” of capitalist goals. Bruno’s talk was very interesting, I was glad to hear that others had about similar sentiments about capitalism, and could concisely describe the points that made it that way, such as, the superficialness and manipulation. Out of all the talks, this is the one that I took notes on the most, furiously, if I might add. Bruno’s talk was saturated with analysis, and despite not having read the text he was describing I could picture exactly what he was referring to. His suggestion that people were made uncomfortable by seeing a reflection of themselves in something that they disagree with, stood with me, I learned that writers will purposely try to instill their readers with this feeling so as to expand their critique into readers lives; it makes sense, they push the boundaries of storytelling and writing and give themselves more space to manifest their ideas. This ability gives them the opportunity to provide the readers with more to take away, and possibly, to even make an active change in their lives or the world around them.

At the symposium, I learned that there was more to science fiction than I initially believed. I, of course, knew there was a degree of importance to science fiction given that some of the greatest known literary works are science fiction pieces (e.g. 1984, The Handmaids Tale, Fahrenheit 451), however, I believe that I underestimated the subtle nuances that are necessary to have a good science fiction piece, as well as severely underestimating the limits of the topics that science fiction could cover, which are, as I learned duringKimon Keramidas’ talk, literally infinitesimal, given that science fiction can cover anything in the past, present, or future. I was also pleasantly surprised by Leigh Dara Gold’s talk to see that philosophy is a topic that can be so present in science fiction. I almost embarrassingly realized that my original views of science fiction were quite narrow and limited mostly to tropes of overly complicated science or gatekeepers trying to make sure that you’re a “real fan” of anything vaguely geeky. I came to find out that a lot of things I was interested in, that I wouldn’t have even thought of as science fiction, actually fell under that category, pieces of media like Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, Black Mirror, and one of my favorite short stories of all time Folding Beijing by Hao Jingang.

Given our current political climate, I believe analysis and discussion, like the kind displayed at the Science Fiction Symposium, should be not only encouraged but viewed as necessary in order to generate a more comprehensive understanding of the world we should be moving towards.

Below I’d like to include a list of some of my additional favorite sci-fi works:

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingang
Black Mirror
Kin by Bruce McAllister
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adam
Stranger Things
The Twilight Zone

Science Fiction Symposium, 2017

I had the opportunity to attend the science fiction symposium a few days ago, and I enjoyed my time there. Some of the subjects that were covered were known to me, and I got to learn about several other works of literature. We had several speakers at the event, but since I only had time to attend two sessions, only four speakers really had my absolute attention. I was really interested in what they had to say for different reasons, so much so, that I had to constantly remind myself to take notes for this blog.  Before I get into details about my time at the event, I would like to acknowledge the presence of Prof. Jill Belli & retired Professor, Samuel R. Delany. Unfortunately I couldn’t be present during their talks, however I met Prof. Belli and we had time to talk in between the sessions.

The first speaker who had my full attention was Adam Heidebrink-Bruno, a graduate student in Lehigh University’s Literature and Social Justice program. He had my full attention because of the specific work of Literature he was talking about. He went into the different types of conflicts in a book by Dave Eggers titled the circle. It’s a good work of Literature, it’s not for everybody, but I enjoyed watching the movie they made about it. In fact, I watched the movie the night before the symposium, with no knowledge whatsoever about what the talks would be about. The fact that I watched the movie the night before, the immersive storytelling and diverse conflicts in both the book and the movie, ( ex: Humans vs Technology) are some of the reasons why Adam had my absolute attention. For anyone who doesn’t know anything about it, hopefully the following quote will get you started, “ Privacy is a human right “.

The second speaker who had my full attention was Kimon Keramidas, associate director and clinical assistant professor in the Center for Experimental Humanities in New York University’s Graduate School for Arts and Sciences. He had some of his students work on science fiction storytelling related video games. I thought that was a very interesting approach to video games,  because most of the video games I know of, aren’t known for there storytelling, they are packed full of actions with no story to back them up. I always appreciate a good immersive story in a video game, and I long for more of them. He also mentioned one of his students video game, about the female body image which explores the saying, “ you’re not good enough “. I thought that would be an interesting video game experience for me. I will finish this section by including a direct quote from Kimon, “ Much of science fiction predicts the science of the future “.

The next speaker who had a significant influence on my thoughts after I left the event, was a chemist who doesn’t really like science fiction since much of his work is related to physical science. This is one of these moments where I was so immersed in the talks that I failed to write down the name of the speaker. I could relate to this chemists opinions about certain science fiction works of literature, because of their very nature. An example of such literature is the Harry Potter series, don’t get me wrong, I love these works of literature, I grew up wishing I could be a part of their world. My only concern with these types of literature is that I have no place to insert myself in, the older I get, the more out of place I feel in them, I have no place in them, because of how incredibly impossible they are. I have an active imagination and I really appreciate some science fiction literatures such as the one’s about Harry Potter, but most of the times, I feel excluded in them. There is a saying that brushes on the types of literature I’m talking about, when a narrator mentions something that’s practically impossible, in the world of literature they call it “ An Act of God “.

The last speaker I had time for that really caught my attention, was an art historian working on the creative nature of robots. Her research is mostly about the drawings of ancient times, however, she has a background in robotics, and has a bachelor in computer engineering. She had my full attention when she started talking about a man named Cohen Harold, who taught an AI called AARON, to draw and program images, then went on to teach it about including colors into the drawings. She had very interesting things to say about the AI, but as I mentioned before, I wasn’t focused on taking notes, I was focused on all of the new and interesting information I was getting from the talks. I also would like to mention Jean Pierre Hebert, he is an independent artist of algorithmic art, drawings, and mixed media. He co-founded the Algorists in 1995 with Roman Verostko. I believe his work was being used to teach AARON to draw, program and add colors to images. I will leave you with a quote from a man I admire, “The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like Deepmind, you have no idea how fast—it is growing at a pace close to exponential. The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year timeframe. 10 years at most”. Elon Musk

Adaptation to the big screen

The Hulu series of The Handmaid’s Tale differs in many ways from the novel. The Hulu series which was created by Bruce Miller, in my opinion, has done an excellent job in portraying what the novel was intended to say. The first 2 episodes take a rather fast pace to those who have read the novel. The episodes go through several chapter and including the ceremony. I feel like the creator had to do this in order to keep people watching past the pilot. In television, as well as novels, have to engage the reader into staying around until the end. The creator of the show had to take what was most interesting about the show and incorporate it into the pilot. In this case I think one of the more interesting aspects of the novel definitely is the ceremony and the strange aspect of it. This with the little backstory we get to see in the form of flashbacks from Offred do well into telling the viewer what is going on without giving too much of the story away.

With every television or film adaptation there has to be changes made. This is for both creative and time purposes. In this case I believe it was more of the creative process that had to be changed because the novel is long enough to create a series of multiple episodes without adding something of ones own. This can be seen already in the first 2 episodes of the series. When the Salvaging is taking place there is a big switch from the novel in which Offerd can be seen not wanting to participate at all in the act but in the series she is portrayed as someone who will take matters into her own hands. In the series Offred is the first one to deliver the first blow to the accused rapist. She is the one who is seen making the kicks and punches count and blood can be seen covering her robe and face. I think this is a very important and drastic change which changes the way the viewer sees Offred. In the novel despite everything that she gone through in the end she does not see it in herself to hurt someone else. She can not bring herself to hurt someone who she knows most likely is innocent. In the series one can say Offred is not afraid to lay the first punch and is seen as a much stronger character. This changes the tone of the series and makes it that much different from the novel. It puts a nice twist to the characters and makes it interesting to see how this new Offred will react to other situations.

I will continue to watch the series and see what other changes have been made. I do feel like the characters were changed to fit the narrative of the series. Some of the more notable are Serena Joy and the Commander, they are portrayed much younger than in the novel, I do not mind the change but it is there nevertheless.

Science Fiction: The Truthful Harbinger of Things to Come

At the symposium, several speakers said some stuff that I either didn’t know before or never thought of it in the way they presented it. I found it easier and more interesting to understand the speakers’ thoughts when they made comparisons between science fiction and various kinds of texts.

For example, a woman made a point about creating a sustainable Earth. Her name was Marleen S. Barr, an author, editor, and a CUNY professor of English. Barr described Eleanor Cameron’s The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, a book that she had read as a child. In that book, mushrooms and other organic materials are used for construction of cities. Barr argued that if we fail to utilize biological resources, there will be dire consequences for all of the planet. She reminds the audience that organic matter matters.

Adam Heidebrink-Bruno, a graduate student from Lehigh University’s Literature and Social Justice program, discussed capitalism and perception of corporate America in Dave Eggers’ novel, The Circle. However, the way Bruno talked about it reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. He described how the protagonist of The Circle, Mae, is living in a world that’s beyond her control and feels awry. Similar to Offred, the main character in Atwood’s novel, Mae is in a society where public sentiment is manipulated and resistance is marginalized. Both characters live in dystopian worlds where according to Bruno, “if you control the flow of information, you have the power to control everything” (Bruno). He tied together the themes of modern work ethic and ideology. He also made a great point in saying that innocuous human actions are linked to the political economy.

Another speaker that caught my attention was Peter Spillane, a Chemistry professor at City Tech. He talked about whether or not robots truly have singularity, creativity, and a conscience. He made comparisons to movies like The Martian and Big Hero 6. Professor Spillane spoke of carbon nanotubes and how a painter, Harold Cohen’s AI, AARON, creates original images.

Sharon Packer, an author, psychiatrist, physician, editor, and Assistant Clinical Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, talked about the fictional superhero, Luke Cage. Packer summarized how Cage became who he is through experimentation while in prison. She said that “by breaking out of jail, Cage symbolically breaks barriers” (Packer) for African Americans. Packer compared what happens in Luke Cage comics to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the Attica Prison Riot. She said that the story of Luke Cage reflects existing controversies with prison studies. It “reopens dialogue between medical researcher and practitioners” (Packer).

The discussions during the symposium remind me that science fiction combines both facts and fiction. No matter how “crazy” certain concepts seem to be, sci-fi has more truth to it than certain individuals see it as. Science fiction goes to show that there are endless possibilities for how things unravel in what we want to consider as due time. However, sci-fi applies what I’ve known for a long time. The only things certain in life are the mysterious uncertainties that nobody is meant to figure out. Doing so will drive those, who dare to try, “crazy”. Doing so will upset the standards and the balance of the universe, throwing all that dwell within into disarray because it only takes at least one to affect the rest.

The Handmaid’s Tale TV Series

The famous novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was recently recreated earlier this year by Bruce Miller as a Hulu TV original series. Many elements of the TV series differ from the book, Bruce Miller was able to extract the dramatic appeal that the novel originally had, he even went as far as enhancing this appeal in some episodes. The cast for Bruce Miller show were selected perfectly, as someone that has both read the book and watched the show I can assure you that the cast truly embodies the will of the characters. Interestingly enough the show took a different route for character development, the writers for the show decided to shine more light on smaller characters. For example both Ofglen and Serena Joy were smaller characters in the novel that helped exemplify the plot, but during the Hulu TV original series if felt like they had their own subplots.

The TV series had a mysterious vibe, and from episode to episode, the writers are able to  keep the viewers on the edge of their seats. The writers provided additional information to the characters and their background, this was obviously to elongate the show. It was satisfying that they provided additional information because there was a lot of questions left after reading the novel were answered in the tv series about Offred, which was played by Elisabeth Moss, and her Husband Luke played by O-T Fagbenle. The TV series allowed the viewer to see their life before gilead, the lifestyle they lived, how the couple met, and most importantly how Offred was captured into the city of Gilead. The viewer is also given comfort by knowing that her family is alive and are safe.

Luke managed to escape and currently lives in Canada, and Hanna, their daughter, was captured but is still able and is safe. I am assuming that she is being raised  to one day become a handmaid, like her mother. We got to know that Nick played by  Max Minghella was actually an eye, which seems to make a huge difference and a calmness about Offred’s escape. The audience may feel safe about where Offred is going, and about her future assuming that Nick may be able to protect her. We also get to know the Commander played by Joseph Fiennes, and Serena Joy, played by Yvonne Strzechowski, in dept. Serena Joy was actually one of the masterminds behind the creation of Gilead, which ironically seems bizarre, because she didn’t seem very happy. Overall the series is a must see, because of the intensity of its excitement, it draws the viewer in. After watching the entire series, I have become a supportive fan, and am anticipating the second season.

City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on 12/6: Extra Credit Opportunity!

City Tech is holding its 2nd Annual Symposium on Science Fiction on Wednesday, December 6th. This event is free and happening all-day (9:00am-6:00pm) on campus: all of the day’s events take place in Namm 119 except for the final tour of the City Tech Science Fiction Archives (you don’t want to miss this: check out information about the collection to get a sense of what is there).

I encourage you to attend the Symposium, and in possible, to make the keynote, which is at 4pm. We are so honored to have Samuel Delany speaking then, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime treat 🙂 (You can learn more about Delany and his contributes to Science Fiction in this New Yorker article, “Samuel Delany and the Past and Future of Science Fiction”).

This is a totally optional event, but I encourage you to attend if you can and to share what you’ve learned with the class. If you attend a portion (or all!) of the Symposium on W 12/6 & blog in response by Su 12/10 you will get extra credit (yay!).

This extra credit will replace a missing blog if you missed some blogs, or it will count as extra credit if already you did all of your blogs (bonus points). Please note that, as always, there are only two grades for this extra credit blog: 100 and 0. If you attend the event and blog your responses/reflections thoughtfully and comprehensively, you will receive 100% (otherwise,  you will receive no credit). Don’t forget to take notes at the event, so you can include concrete details in your blog.

Please categorize your blog as “City Tech Science Fiction Symposium.”

Thought Curation (#WhyIWrite)

I started writing when I was really young in order to keep myself entertained. I never really saw it as something I enjoyed doing until recently. It was difficult explaining my convoluted ideas to others and writing made it easier to understand myself. It also provided a place for me to get out anything that I couldn’t talk about with others, either because it was personal, or too complicated, seemed nonsensical or simply because my interests didn’t align with others around me.

In my junior year of high school, my teacher made us keep a journal. I found that when I really put effort and care into what I wrote it was not only a lot more enjoyable to write but a lot easier to read and understand. Keeping that journal I learned that I could have fun writing. I learned that if I actually cared about and meant what I was saying, I wouldn’t have any regret or cringy moments rereading my writing later. I appreciated writing a lot more after keeping that journal, I’m regretful I didn’t continue it afterward… 

Two entries from the journal I kept in 2015

I think of writing as a way to capture who I was at a point in time. Just how a picture can capture an image or moment, writing is almost like capturing an essence. I can relive a moment in time when I felt or thought a certain way. Writing about things that I feel passionate about is really interesting, I think it’s really easy to forget that writing can be used for so much more than academia. I’ve written about my favorite singers and bands, fashion, food, restaurants, brands, music, books, and even words. 

Recently, in an effort to start journaling again I made an Instagram account where I post my favorite pictures and caption them with small thoughts, essays, or song lyrics. It’s easier to make a quick post on the bus or train than to sit down and physically write out in a journal, of course, it’s different, but at the core, it’s the same. I like to think of it as Thought Curation, where I pick out what I like most, polish it and share it.

It’s cathartic being able to express emotions freely, and writing is something very simple that almost everyone can do. I really encourage it, it’s a space to grow and practice.