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‘Gonna be a trainwreck’: can an Asian diaspora Facebook group be good TV? | Television

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When the moderators of Subtle Asian Traits announced in June that the Facebook group would be spun into an American TV series, the news was met with a flurry of cynical comments by its members.

The private group, with nearly 2 million members, labels itself as “a community that celebrates the similarities and differences within the subtle traits of Asian culture and sub-cultures”.

Some people expressed hopes that a small-screen dramatisation would not “become a negative stereotype for Asian people”, while others were more blunt. “This is gonna be a trainwreck,” read one response.

“All I see in this group are memes about boba tea, corporal punishments, abusive parents, Chinese-only memes, and self-loathing Asians,” said another.

Subtle Asian Traits – modelled on a similarly named Facebook group, Subtle Private School Traits – was created in September 2018 by nine Chinese-Australians, then high school students in Melbourne. The impetus was to share memes and jokes common to the Asian-Australian and immigrant experience. It became a place for young members of the Asian diaspora to feel seen.

The group rapidly swelled internationally, bolstered by media coverage from outlets including the New York Times and the BBC. It spawned a bevy of related Facebook groups, such as Subtle Korean Traits and Subtle Asian Eats, its own subreddit and even in-person meetups.

Today, the content shared isn’t Australia-specific: there are posts about cooking rice, eating hot pot and, yes, drinking bubble tea. Among the jokes about misinformation on WeChat and a surprising number of custom keyboards photos are heartfelt personal stories: tributes to parents and grandparents, and disclosures of successes and failures.

The group’s members include American comedian Hasan Minhaj, who did a Q&A in 2019, and the Canadian actor Simu Liu, star of the sitcom Kim’s Convenience and the upcoming Marvel superhero film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

The co-founders of Subtle Asian Traits have now parlayed the group’s success into a scripted TV series. It’s hard to say what a show based on the group might look like. Not much has been revealed about the project other than it being a “college-set narrative” of the same name, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Other online sensations have found mainstream media success. The popularity of Dr Sandra Lee’s disgusting, mesmerising Dr Pimple Popper videos, for example, has led to a TLC reality show of the same name. Zola, a black comedy released in US cinemas last week, was described by Guardian US arts writer Adrian Horton as “a milestone for the virality-to-Hollywood pipeline” – the film’s storyline derives from a viral 2015 Twitter thread.

But lots of eyeballs in one medium doesn’t guarantee something will translate well. For example, a 2010 TV adaptation of the Twitter account @shitmydadsays was cancelled after one season. “After the failure of the show, many of the Twitter feeds that had been bought that pilot season died,” recalled account creator Justin Halpern. “And during the next few years, Twitter-to-TV pilot purchases went away.”

A Subtle Asian Traits–inspired series is fraught not only with the challenge of adapting an internet phenomenon, but also with difficult questions of cultural representation. How do you let a broader audience in on what are essentially in-jokes between a group of people with shared experiences? How do you poke fun at commonalities that, when removed from their cultural context, might reinforce narrow stereotypes (tiger mums, academic overachievers, etc)? Laughing at oneself and being laughed at by others are two very different propositions.

When done well, comedies about the Asian immigrant experience satirise without being reductive – The Family Law and the aforementioned Kim’s Convenience come to mind. But striking a balance between being specifically relatable and broadly appealing is tricky. Eddie Huang, whose memoir Fresh Off the Boat was turned into a sitcom starring Constance Wu and Randall Park, later said he “regret[ted] ever selling the book”.

“Fresh Off the Boat was a very specific narrative about SPECIFIC moments in my life,” Huang wrote. “The network’s approach was to tell a universal, ambiguous, cornstarch story about Asian-Americans.”

Huang’s comments are apposite when considering the context collapse that can occur on social media. Subtle Asian Traits, a group that began as a specific space for young people mainly of the east Asian diaspora, has grown into a behemoth. In an era of increasing diversity on screen, the Facebook group’s members have rightly pointed out the potential for unequal representation.

“If y’all are going to do this, please don’t call it Subtle Asian Traits anymore, call it East Asian Traits,” a person commented on the TV announcement. “We are not even going to see the diversity of Asiatic backgrounds.” (A few years ago, a lack of south Asian representation in the group led to the creation of a spinoff, Subtle Curry Traits.)

“I hope the production will reflect the origins of SAT, which was a haven for Southeast [sic] Asians and the diaspora in Australasia, until the North Americans flooded in and made it all about them,” read another, more tongue-in-cheek, comment.

Justin Ching, one of the writers attached to the TV series, seemed to acknowledge the blowback in a tweet last week. “I know the tribe has questions and concerns,” he wrote.

Criticisms about a lack of representation are valid, but it’s also difficult to expect a single show to be all things to all Asians everywhere. Similar expectations were foisted upon Crazy Rich Asians, a film that had more than 70 speaking roles for Asian actors, and was the first Hollywood film in 25 years with an entirely Asian diaspora cast. (People didn’t feel personally represented by a family of Singapore’s wealthiest property developers? Quelle surprise.)

Personally, I’m interested to see what a TV version of Subtle Asian Traits will look like. It will be a litmus test of the challenges inherent in converting culturally specific online virality into mainstream appeal. Even if it does turn out to be a “trainwreck”, anything that contributes in good faith to on-screen diversity is surely something to be welcomed.



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The death of Charles Babbage, mathematician and inventor – archive, 1871 | Computing

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The death is announced of Mr Charles Babbage, who has long held high rank among the mathematicians of the day. He was born on 26 December 1792, and having been privately educated, proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge where he took his BA degree in 1814; but, curiously enough, his name does not appear in the mathematical tripos. In the course of his mathematical studies he found fault with the logarithmic tables then in use as being defective and unfaithful; and in order to improve them visited the various centres of machine labour in England and on the continent, and on his return directed the construction of a “difference engine” for the use of the government.

Another result of this tour was the production of his work on the Economy of Manufactures. By 1833 a portion of his machine (popularly known as “the calculating machine”) was prepared, and its operations were entirely successful. It was, however, never completed. He next prepared his Table of Logarithms of the Natural Numbers from 1 to 108,000, a work which was so highly esteemed that it was very soon afterwards translated into almost all the European languages.

A scaled-down version of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, constructed in the 1860s.
A scaled-down version of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, constructed in the 1860s. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

In 1811 Mr Babbage was elected Lucasian professor of mathematics, an office which had been filled by Sir Isaac Newton, Dr Isaac Barrow, Bishop Turton, Professor Airey, and other eminent persons. This post he resigned in 1811. Among his most prominent works may be mentioned A Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, the design of which was to show the error of a supposition implied in the first volume of that celebrated series, that ardent devotion to mathematical studies is unfavourable to religious faith.

Mr Babbage once, and it is believed once only, sought political honours, having become in 1832 a candidate for the borough of Finsbury, in the advanced Liberal interest, but was not successful. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of a large number of literary institutions.

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How to keep a support contract • The Register

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On Call Let us take a little trip back to the days before the PC, when terminals ruled supreme, to find that the more things change the more they stay the same. Welcome to On Call.

Today’s story comes from “Keith” (not his name) and concerns the rage of a user whose expensive terminal would crash once a day, pretty much at the same time.

The terminal in question was a TAB 132/15. It was an impressive bit of kit for the time and was capable of displaying 132 characters of crisp, green text on a 15-inch CRT housed in a futuristic plastic case. Luxury for sure, unless one was the financial trader trying to use the device.

Once a day, at around 13:30, the terminal would hang. The user would have to reach behind it, power it off, wait a bit, and then fire it back up again. To placate the angry customer, a replacement was dispatched, and all was well. Until the problem started again. Another replacement was made. Another week or so went by with no complaints. And again, another call: the terminal was hanging. Same time. A few times a week.

“These terminals were in the thousand-dollar range,” Keith told us, so a monthly replacement cycle was not really an option. He even used one of the faulty units himself for a while and encountered no issues, which was odd in itself and, we reckon, planted a seed of suspicion.

As for the customer, he was raging by this point. “He was threatening to cancel our contract for his entire firm,” remembered Keith, which would hit the bottom line hard. A salesperson was sent out to see what was happening, but there was no failure.

A technician went out; again no failure. Was this a case of “Technician Syndrome”, where a problem cannot be replicated in front of service personnel? Maybe. Keith’s team were at their wit’s end while the customer had hit the end of his tether and gone beyond.

The solution to the problem was accidental. Keith was back on site, diagnosing an unrelated software issue, but could see the suspect terminal on the other side of the room. As he watched, the trader using the machine sat back for lunch, flipping through the pages of a financial newspaper. A phone call came through, and the trader slung the paper on top of the monitor, took the call, and then resumed work.

Oblivious to the newspaper.

A few minutes later there was uproar. The trader had stood and was slapping the side of the terminal, yelling all manner of not-safe-for-work oaths and casting aspersions upon the good name of Keith’s firm, the software, the programmers, and the computing industry in general. The cursing continued as the trader reached behind for the power switch, knocking the paper aside.

Keith had his solution. But was smart enough to know that a bland presentation of facts would probably not help. Instead, he arranged for his office to call the trader and tell him that a tech was on the way to help. He waited until the trader was distracted and sauntered over.

“Sure enough,” said Keith, “he said he was glad to see me but launched into a tirade again about the device’s many faults.”

He let the customer vent for a while, and surreptitiously placed the newspaper back on top over the heat vents on the terminal while pretending to examine the rear of the unit.

Now patience was needed. It wouldn’t take long – the terminal had, after all, only just recovered from its last overheating episode – and Keith encouraged the trader to unload all his woes and grievances.

The bug list was building as the screen suddenly flickered and locked up. “There! You see that?” exclaimed the user. Keith nodded and reached round the side of the terminal to cycle the power. Sure enough, it came back up.

Keith made a show of thanking the user for showing him the elusive bug and was staging a call with a co-worker, supposedly to prepare a replacement, when the terminal locked up again.

Keith wrinkled his forehead at the “mystery” before offering up an explanation.

“Ah!” he exclaimed, “Did you see how that flicker started from the top and moved to the down?”

Those familiar with the technology will know it was just following the raster pattern. The customer, on the other hand, did not.

“That is often a sign it is overheating,” said Keith, playing fast and loose with the truth, “but this office is cool?”

He pretended to be mystified until the penny dropped for the trader, who unleashed yet more expletives as he realised where he’d dropped his newspaper and snatched it away from the vents.

Feeling the volcanic heat spewing from the depths of the terminal, he turned to Keith, suddenly concerned: “Will it be OK?”

Of course it would. It had only been overheating for a short time every day. The apologies from the customer, who had “discovered” the problem, were profuse and copious. Keith excused himself, but not before rubbing a bit more salt into the wound by telling the user he needed to cancel the burn-in process of yet another expensive replacement.

As it turned out, rather than the customer cancelling the support contact, it ended up being extended.

“It was a good thing I’d let him ‘discover’ the fault,” said Keith. “If I had found it, he would have been very defensive and we still might have lost that contract.”

The minor bugs the user had reported while Keith had been waiting for the overheating to happen again were swiftly dealt with and the enhancement requests logged. Keith also reported back to his boss, who spent rather a lot of time laughing.

“It was a good day.”

Ever set the stage so the customer thinks they’re the hero of the hour? Or maybe you’ve wished all manner of unpleasantness upon your suppliers before realising the blame laid with you all along? Tell us about the time you picked up the phone with an email to On Call. ®

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NUIG to spend €5m on research to help address global issues

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Several key research areas have been identified by NUI Galway to work towards for 2026.

NUI Galway’s recently launched research and innovation strategy includes a €5m investment on support for its multi-disciplinary research teams as they grapple with several global issues.

The strategy, which lays out plans for the university’s next five years of research, focuses on six areas: antimicrobial resistance, decarbonisation, democracy and its future, food security, human-centred data and ocean and coastal health.

“As a public university, we have a special responsibility to direct our research toward the most pressing questions and the most difficult issues,” said to Prof Jim Livesey, VP for research and innovation at NUI Galway.

“As we look into the future, we face uncertainty about the number and nature of challenges we will face, but we know that we will rely on our research capacity as we work together to overcome them,” Livesey added.

The plan focuses on creating the conditions to intensify the quality, scale and scope of research in the university into the future. This includes identifying areas with genuine potential to achieve international recognition for NUI Galway. It also aims to continue to cultivate a supportive and diverse environment within its research community.

NUI Galway has research collaborations with 3,267 international institutions in 114 different countries. The university also has five research institutes on its Galway city campus, including the Data Science Institute, the Whitaker Institute for social change and innovation and the Ryan Institute for marine research.

Its research centres in the medtech area include Science Foundation Ireland’s Cúram and the Corrib Research Centre for Advanced Imaging and Core Lab.

The university will also continue to involve the public with its research and innovation plans through various education and outreach initiatives. It is leading the Public Patient Involvement Ignite network, which it claims, will “bring the public into the heart of research initiatives”.

Another key area identified in the strategy report is the development of partnerships with industry stakeholders. NUI Galway has spun out many successful companies in recent years, including medtechs such as AuriGen Medical, Atrian, Vetex Medical and Neurent.

According to MedTech Europe, Ireland has the highest number of medtech employees per capita in Europe along with Switzerland.

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