Directed by Spike Jonze

    What makes the movie Her timeless is it’s deeper message about life and connections. It’s true it’s a movie about artificial intelligence and the emergence of AI’s in modern society, and following the social implications. However, it transcends time. There are constant moments of old fusing with new, making it difficult to distinguish the exact moment in time this might be happening. Based off of setting and surroundings, the tall buildings, curved line of the modern era, and thick screened technology, retro colors, and old fashioned furniture of the 70’s it’s hard to tell.

    Her is like a Rorschach test, more commonly known as an inkblot test. Everyone sees the same set of inkblot imagery, but what they perceive and what they get out of it is entirely up to the individual, what they experienced in their lives that leads them to see different images. Although many problems have been found with the Rorschach test, the metaphor still stands. There are many angles of interpretation for Her, every person will latch on to a different aspect and theme for the film. It’s about the complexities of life, relationships, love, technology, and connection. Although the tech in the movie is new, a high performance processing system equipped with a female (or male) voice to organize your life, the thinking is still relatively the same to what we have today. Theodore ends up in a kind of long distance relationship, spending long periods of time on his phone, talking to his lover’s voice.

    This kind of embodiment of a character through purely voice adds to the connection Theodore feels toward Samantha. She’s always in his pocket, never absent, able to be called upon at any moment. Feminists will look at this idea as vaguely sexist, the idea of the perfect woman ready at a moment’s notice to do the man’s bidding. Samantha is there to organize Theodore’s files and get his life together. But she also functions as more. By connecting with Samantha, Theodore is able to move past the difficulties of his divorce from his now ex-wife Catherine. She acts as the stable person in his life who helps him realize where he went wrong with his past relationship, his molding of his partners to be something they aren’t.

    Even though Samantha is truly a mold made from him, learning from his speech patterns and his topics of conversation, she eventually evolves into someone/something else. Later in the film she speaks to other AI’s and interacts with thousands of other humans. Through this she learns to be more than what Theodore originally planned her to be, and his original mold of her. She gains insight that eventually aids Theodore, by pointing out why his relationships always fail. His high expectations and fantasies of his partners always fall in his way.

    This film offers a snapshot into the human psyche, embodying what we do wrong as humans, our flaws, in the eyes of an AI. In the picnic scene with the other couple, Samantha has a moment of clarity. She says she used to be resentful of not having a body, but then she realized she doesn’t need one. She is so much more by not having a physical form, she can be in many places at once, she never ages, she isn’t fragile like humanity. The camera angles in this scene add to her words by emphasizing the empty space beside Theodore, while the other couple sits side by side. There’s a void where Samantha should be, overlayed by diegetic non synchronous sound. The source of Samantha’s voice is not shown. In this scene Samantha uncovers what humans fear about AI’s, the sheer power they would have over us as flawed humans, how they would control us and our lives, while we’re stuck in our meat sac human forms. Through this moment of self actualization Samantha manages to separate herself from the picnic scene and from her human connection. Before her small speech the scene felt almost natural, a double date in the countryside. But after, her connection to humanity feels severed, the characters realize the difference between them. The human experience cannot be fathomed by an AI.

    By the end of the movie it’s not the connection with Samantha that’s left. Along his journey to knowing Samantha and living his life with the presence of an AI, Theodore has found the connection he lost. He’s parted from the idea of his ex-wife, signed his divorce papers and departed on stable terms. He’s realized what had brought about the destruction of his marriage. Himself. And he formed a true human connection. Him and his long time friend Amy bound over their relationships with AIs, and find each other over their mutual loss of connection with them. They feel abandoned, together, by their AI’s who left the human servers to go on to bigger and better things. This scenario is a new and futuristic idea, while still holding true to an age old struggle of abandonment. Amy and Theodore have both lost what was at the time very near and dear to them, without realizing that what they learned from these relationships is the benefits of humanity.

    Even though they aren’t immortal or able to transcend their physical space, they hold the flaws of humanity in their hands. Their mortality makes their relationships worth so much more, their connections so much more valuable because of the singular physical space they can occupy at any one moment.

    The movie Her is able to portray such a timeless message of connection and the human experience by using the carefully interwoven old and new. Through seeing this story of AI technology in an ambiguous setting of future and retro, the viewer gets a glimpse of modern society. What will and won’t change. Different connections, but humans will always be connecting, through whatever means they find. As stated in Film Theory An Introduction Through the Senses by Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener, “Screens are in effect something that stands between us and the world, something that simultaneously protects and opens up access” (43). The screens through which the humans in Her interacted with their AI’s acted as a screen that protected them from the rejection of real human connection, but also blocked them from true experiences with others of their own. Both negatively and positively changing their life’s experiences. The AI’s are coming for us.

The China-United States Scrimmage

June 4, 2019

Rising powers often feel as though they are entitled to a greater respect from other nations and thus command a greater influence in the region. This phenomenon is known as “Thucydides Trap,” in which the Greek historian Thucydides spoke on the rise of Athens and inevitable war from the fear that thus instilled in Sparta (Allison). This concept relates to the scrimmage of China and the United States, thus China’s rise in power threatens the established power of the United States. The established power feels insecure and is quick to jump to the defensive to protect itself and its image on the international stage (Allison). 

China and the United States reside in opposite spheres of the world, they follow differing political ideologies and maintain opposing economies. In domestic life, the citizens of the two countries have contrasting views of the position of the self in the familial sphere. In China the word for “individualism” or “gerenzhuyi” suggests the pursuit of selfish endeavors in one’s community, while in America “individualism” has the connotation of self-empowerment (Allison). China’s familial sphere concentrates its energy on the collective and organizes in a hierarchical pyramid, the group, rather than the individual. This translates into some of its foreign policy decisions — such as seeing China at the top of the pyramid, with other states beneath it (Allison). The Chinese nation has been around for more than 5,000 years, while the United States has yet to turn 250 years old. The relative ages and experiences of the countries is showcased in their differing concepts of time and how each country prioritizes its national interests (Allison). In the United States, lawmakers are quick to propose fast solutions to problems that often need more time for change to take place. While in China, the Chinese have a different understanding of time and patience. For example, with China’s perspective of Taiwan — which they consider to be ruled by Chinese nationalists — they have sought after a long-term strategy in which they tighten Taiwan’s economic ties to China and slowly bring the island back into Chinese influence. With time and patience, China will bring Taiwan back into their group. For the United States and China, their two opposing views and experiences with patience — or impatience — bring China and the United States to their own scrimmage. 

In the United States, lawmakers are quick to propose fast solutions to problems that often need more time for change to take place.

In the past, there have been instances of close calls between the United States and China, one of those being China’s first test of an atomic bomb in October of 1964. This test took place while United States-China tensions were high over the conflict in Vietnam and while China has troops near its border with Vietnam (Council on Foreign Relations). Other near conflicts mainly surround the disagreements between China and the United States on the status of Taiwan or the disputed islands of the South China Sea, or a 1999 NATO-run bombing of a Chinese embassy in Belgrade based off of United States intelligence mistakes. Then with the United States-China Relations Act of 2000, the two countries increased trade from $5 billion to $231 billion between 1980 and 2004 and China surpassing Mexico as the United States’ second largest trading partner (Council on Foreign Relations). Since Donald Trump’s United States Presidency, relations have declined from trade tariffs and the 2018 to present day trade war. Needless to say tensions have risen and fallen between the two major powers. Furthermore, estimates show that China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy by 2030, maybe even as soon as 2027 (Council on Foreign Relations). Considering the past, lays the ground for policy adjustments for the future.

With imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods in 2018 and Vice-President Mike Pence saying the United States will from now on “prioritize competition over cooperation” with China, prospects for civil relations have declined. In May of 2019 tariffs of anywhere between 10 and 25 percent hit $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, and China retaliated with its own tariffs on United States goods. China is known to be one of the top manufacturers in the world, breaking off trade relations with China would affect American jobs and impact domestic and international business revenue. 

In recent bilateral trade negotiations the Trump administration has been pushing for major changes to China’s current trade policy, these would include addressing the questions of intellectual property theft, currency manipulation, industrial subsidies, and forced technology transfers, all implicitly in the United States national interest. One of the greatest issues with the current bilateral trade negotiations is, President Trump is pushing for policies that would alter China’s domestic policies, specifically in economics and trade policies that the United States regards as “unfair,” suggesting changes that would benefit the United States economy (Lawder). By May 1, 2019 China’s President Mr. Xi Jinping demanded substantial revisions to the agreement, after hearing feedback from his Communist party leaders. The party leaders told Mr. Xi that the agremeent currently on the table made China and Mr. Xi appear weak, like he was bowing to Western influences and pressure (Rudd). With the formation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the agreement was originally conceived for the United States to combat China’s influence in the East Asian and Asian Pacific region and therein gaining influence over a region that has been primarily dominated by China. Now without the United States in the final deal and an invitation from current signatories for China to join, the United States isn’t receiving the same relative gains (Londoño). A relative gain would have been, the comparative gain in Global Domestic Product (GDP) or imports/exports that the United States would have had comparable to China. A bilateral trade war affects the economies of China and the United States, if a resolution isn’t found United States GDP will be impacted.

Having two of the largest world economies in a trade war — a conflict of any kind really — could be the foundation to future conflicts. The inability to resolve other recent conflicts of East Asian security, Taiwan, or China’s military modernization, brings the more logical option to the forefront, not resolving their conflicts but managing them (Pei). A route of deeper engagement, rather than containment and pursuing a more liberal focused route of foreign policy with China, would be more inline with United States national interests, prioritizing national security. The United States and China don’t share overlapping security interests or political values. While the United States is looking to preserve the liberal order and establish the fundamentals of the American constitution in other countries, China strives for a world order without the United States and other Western powers ruling the international system (Pei). If the United States and China were to find a compromise in the middle, following the Chinese ideology of patience and paving the road to future resolution, rather than aiming to resolution all of the United States’ problems with China’s domestic policies in one treaty, the two nations may be able to settle on a deal.

A bilateral trade war affects the economies of China and the United States, if a resolution isn’t found United States GDP will be impacted.

Since the United States and China don’t have overlapping spheres of influence, they aren’t direct security threats to each other — without provocation. That is, until nuclear weapons and a tense relationship are considered. In Dennis C. Blair’s article, “Would China Go Nuclear?” in Foreign Affairs, Blair argues that a nuclear conflict between the United States and China would be highly unlikely with odds “somewhere between nil and zero” (Blair). Blair states a maritime campaign resulting from the disputed islands in the South China Sea would be the most likely conflict, if one were to arise. And before the onset of nuclear were to happen, the United States would take every other route, and China wouldn’t first-strike unless there was a sustained nuclear strike against them (Blair). 

In the case of United States security policy, Republicans and Democrats tend to agree on “the United States should dominate the world militarily, economically, and politically,” even when they are polarized on most policy issues (Posen). The United States has had a recent history of trying to contain “rogue states” that they have viewed as a threat to United States security, such as Iran or North Korea. Along those lines, the United States has also pushed for the non-use of nuclear weapons. However, being the international watch-dog has cost the United States lives, of American citizens and allies. Posen argues for the abandonment of the hegemonic strategy and to pull back from conflicts that are not our wars to fight, not unless it affects our national interest and therein our security. These continued efforts of containment have made more enemies than it have resolved conflicts. Keeping this in mind, the United States-China relationship should be pushed further towards an expansive policy.

Some scholars argue that the United States should lose some of its unnecessary security agreements — seeing as the United States is the largest military force and doesn’t need the power of other nations — while they rely on the United States — and would benefit from loosening its efforts of leading the liberal world order (Brooks, et al). In the past and recent years, China has regularly pushed against the United States for its liberal world order, attempting to combat Western powers and the preset of Western ideas saturating the international order. However, if the United States loosens its hold on its position as leader of the free world, it would give more room to Chinese expansion of power. In that there is also the possibility of China attempting to — and succeeding — in becoming the Eurasian hegemon (Posen). Although the likelihood in its success would be small, with uncertainty in the Chinese economy and the combined and individual power of surrounding East Asian states would impede that possibility, especially with the proximity of world powers such as India and Russia — both of which have nuclear capabilities (Posen). 

The United States has maintained the position of the global security force and leader of the free world for more than six decades, in which it has — rather successfully — promoted the liberal economic order and managed the security of the world (Brooks). For a future policy decision, if the United States were to take a more realist stance on relations with China and construct a more narrow policy, it would prioritize a strategy of containment, in which the United States would actively attempt to prevent Chinese influence from expanding. This kind of restriction on Chinese power would not play out well on the international stage, especially with enemies — or non-allies — of the United States and other Western powers. 

When considering whether to move forward in a more expansive direction with future United States-China relations, or a more narrow direction, it’s important to briefly acknowledge the growing relations between China and Russia. China-Russia relations have improved notably since 2014, following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of Russia pivoting its focus to Asia, after Western nations imposed economic sanctions (MacFarquhar). Trade between China and Russia has gone up by almost 25 percent in this last year alone, totally at about $108 billion. The two countries also support each other foreign policies issues such as: the Iran nuclear deal, North Korea’s nuclear program, and the Venezuela crisis (MacFarquhar). China and Russia have also been expanding their cooperation in a variety of fields including aviation, agriculture, transportation, energy, and space (MacFarquhar). Keeping all this in mind, it’s in the United States national interest to stay involved with China as these two international powers — China and Russia — grow their alliance and while they have such similar interests.

It would serve the United States national interest to pursue a strategy of deeper engagement, working to cooperate with China rather than attempting to compete and allowing domestic policy to suffer for it. It’s time for the United States to settle and build relationships, influencing Chinese foreign policy as a neutral state rather than competing for hegemony in a nonpolar world. The effects of the United States-China trade war is leaving other countries as the “winners” of the scrimmage, instead of the United States gaining relative advantage. Trade policy is affecting jobs and American markets now, making this is most crucial policy to address in relation to China-United States foreign affairs. A more expansive policy would be more realistic towards a major power such as China, this would be aligning closer with a liberal practice. As the United States and China are quite possibly the most powerful and influential states to date, it’s more beneficial for national security to grow side-by-side rather than combatting the risks of attempting to contain China’s sphere of influence.


Allison, Graham. “China vs. America: Managing the Next Clash of Civilizations.” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2017-08-15/china-vs-america

Blair, Dennis C. and Talmadge, Caitlin. “Would China Go Nuclear?” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2018-12-11/would-china-go-nuclear

Brooks, Stephen G., et al. “Lean Forward: In Defense of American Engagement.” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2012-11-30/lean-forward

Council on Foreign Relations. “Timeline: U.S. Relations with China.” Council on Foreign Relations, https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-relations-china

Kissinger, Henry A. “The Future of U.S.-Chinese Relations: Conflict Is a Choice, Not a Necessity.” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2012-03-01/future-us-chinese-relations

Lawder, David. “Trump Push for China Trade Reform Draws Wide Support at Home, Abroad.” Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-china-trump-analysis/trump-push-for-china-trade-reform-draws-wide-support-at-home-abroad-idUSKCN1R60D5

Londoño, Ernesto and Rich, Motoko. “U.S. Allies Sign Sweeping Trade Deal in Challenge to Trump.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/08/world/asia/us-trump-tpp-signed

MacFarquhar, Neil. “Xi Jinping’s Visit to Russia Accents Ties in Face of Tensions with U.S.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/world/europe/xi-jinping-china-russia.html

Pei, Minxin. “How China and America See Each Other: And Why They Are on a Collision Course.” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/how-china-and-america-see-each-other

Posen, Barry R. “Pull Back: The Case for a Less Activist Foreign Policy.” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2013-01-01/pull-back

Rudd, Kevin. “Trump Hands China an Easy Win in the Trade War.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/opinion/trump-china-trade-war

Trump, Donald. “Presidential Memorandum Regarding Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement.” The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-memorandum-regarding-withdrawal-united-states-trans-pacific-partnership-negotiations-agreement/

World Bank. “GDP Ranking, PPP Based.” The World Bank, https://datacatalog.worldbank.org/dataset/gdp-ranking-ppp-based

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

[Summary from Alexandra Bracken’s website: This time travel duology focuses on the journey of Etta Spencer, a modern Manhattan teen, and Nicholas Carter, of 18th century Manhattan, as they race against time itself to find an object of untold value and save Etta’s future.]

I just finished reading Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, and now I’d like to share my thoughts. The funny thing is I got this book last year from Christmas and now it’s August. It took me a while to start reading it because of school, but when I did it still started off pretty slow. I knew that this book was right up my alley, but I had to get into the alley first before it really started going. I would give this book an all over 8/10 because when it picked up towards the middle, it really picked up. The whole concept of traveling and travelers in the story was well thought out and there were rules and conditions set in place for the travelers. For me it’s really important for a time travel story to also consider the consequences related to time travel, like what would happen if you went back in time and changed something, or if you saw your past/future self. I’m very glad that Alexandra Bracken thought about these questions and addressed them in the book with some probable theories of traveling through time. That’s what really made the book for me. 

The twists and turns of the plot added in the development of the story, and none of it felt entirely out of left field. There were surprises and moments of awe, but nothing that felt unnatural and didn’t fit in with the story. It remained interesting enough with the different places and times they jumped to. 


Looking at character development, Etta felt like she definitely became more flushed out throughout the book. The further I read, the more real she felt. At the beginning it seemed she only had the violin on her mind and Alice, very understandable of course. She had just seen her mentor die before her when she was thrown back in time, became very sick and was in a foreign environment. But it felt like that was all there was to her character. As the story progressed, more backstory of her and her mom was given and her feelings about traveling, her mom, Nicholas, and herself became a lot more jumbled. It felt much more realistic than the one track mind she had began the story with. 

Nicholas. He just seemed too perfect for me, it felt like he didn’t have any real flaws. His greatest flaw, which was just him trying to take care of himself in an era that did the opposite, by lying to Etta so he could be paid by Cyrus and make a good life for himself. Entirely understandable. Although, Etta should have been far more hurt and pissed that he had lied to her and was going to sell her and her mom out to Cyrus and screw up all of time. I feel like that should have been a far bigger deal than it was. She just accepted it and then they made out. 

The ending.

Of course something had to catastrophically go wrong, and we’re dealing with time travel here, so it had to be drastic. I think Alexandra Bracken definitely hit the mark on that. Especially when we thought that Etta had died. When it’s well written and purposeful I’m totally fine with authors killing off their characters. For many readers it comes off as unexpected and even more thrilling. And if it has a true purpose I think it’s a smart and bold move to make. So I was just a tiny bit disappointed that Etta had just been tossed into a different timeline.

Which brings me to my big ending question, are Nicholas and Rose and everyone else now in the alternate timeline and Etta is in the original timeline? Or did Etta get thrown into an alternate timeline and has to deal with the consequences and Nicholas, Rose & Co. are now in the original timeline? And when we say “original timeline” is that to say the one before the Cyrus and the others in the family mess everything up, or is it the true original timeline before anyone messed with it? So many options! So I can’t wait to start reading Wayfarer, the sequel in the series and see which of my possible hypotheses might be correct.

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia, Illustrated by Gabriel Picolo

★ ★ ★ ★

I really enjoyed the story of Raven. Before reading this graphic novel/comic I wasn’t aware of the story of Raven or her character. I don’t have much knowledge of the Teen Titans in general but I loved this little glimpse into their world. I look forward to reading more of her story and the story of the other Teen Titans.

In this ARC there were a few speech or thought bubbles that looked like they were coming from the wrong person, where it didn’t make sense for that person to be saying it in that situation. There were also a few spelling or grammatical mistakes, one time a speech bubble had the same line repeated, which didn’t seem purposeful.

My only other comment is I have no knowledge or experience with the world of spiritual guides, tarot card readers, or empaths so I can’t speak to that aspect of the story. I just hope that what is portrayed in this story is accurate to that world.

On the NetGalley page it says this copy isn’t in the final full color, which makes me really intrigued in what the final version will look like. I really enjoyed the illustration style and have heard many great things about Gabriel Picolo.

Can’t wait to read the final print copy!

When Dimple Met Rishi [Book Review]

Whenever I read books on my nook app, like I did with When Dimple Met Rishi, I like to highlight any words, phrases, or sentences that I particularly enjoy while I’m reading.

Loved Words/Phrases/Sentences:

dampness of disappointment pg. 8

The woman was relentless, with the jaw muscles of a jungle predator pg. 24

beatific pg. 27

gobsmacked pg. 54

they were timepieces, not watches pg. 64

the Alpha Omega Toe Jam legacy pg. 84

drawing had always been a tempering balm pg. 112

bereft pg. 141

insouciance pg. 218

cuff links that winked under the recessed lighting pg. 273

her ultrasound picture at the grainy blob/glorified amoeba pg. 296

decimated pg. 300

For this read I also highlighted multiple of Sandhya Menon’s italicized words which were borrowed terms from Hindi. Her incorporation of heritage and culture into this YA Fiction/Contemporary Romance makes it feel so much more real and so much more important. Sandhya Menon’s voice is able to shine through her words, making this contemporary novel a dive into Indian culture and a look at arranged marriages for Indian Americans raised in America. The two different perspectives of Rishi and Dimple shows the two different sides of the equation, both of their thoughts on arranged marriage and their cultural heritage.

Dimple’s character development can be seen from the beginning of the novel, her thoughts are well conveyed and her actions go along with her characterization and don’t stray until you see her change with the book, with love. By the end you can still feel who she was at the beginning, who she still is inside, but you know she’s learned and grown and found herself closer in adulthood. 

Also let’s talk about her best friend while she’s at Insomnia Con. Celia. Her character also goes through a lot of self discovery and self realization. She’s always been the outcast and never had her moment with the popular kids in high school, so when the popular douchebags take a liking to her, she morphs herself to get along with them. Then by the end she has her moment of clarity on the middle of the stage, in skimpy attire, surrounded by idiots. Celia had a rough few weeks, but in the end it aided her and her development because she learned the value of true friendship and still gained a dear friend, Dimple, by the end of the story. Although in some cases that true friendship may not have been recovered, in this hopeful story it was and it leaves the reader feeling their own sense of hope in the world. 

I did have some problems with Rishi being so perfect, he respects his parents and does everything with them in mind. Sure, there are many of us who follow ourr parents wishes, but his entire life is dictated by them and there’s no moment in which he wavers from that. He doesn’t even realize it at the end of the book, he decides to follow his dreams, but doesn’t bother to change his mind about other aspects of his life. He’s so understanding and hardly gets mad. He just feels too perfect, with no real flaws, besides the flaw that exists in perfection. It just felt a little unbelievable for me, especially since everyone has some kind of moment of rebellion when they feel misunderstood. I found it hard to believe that Rishi could be such a perfect human. 

Although it was the story about a computer science enthusiast who went to a coding event, there wasn’t a lot of focus on the coding or the project she was working on. I understand it’s a romance story, but the coding and science aspect didn’t come through so much. I was also a little confused why Celia was at Insomnia Con, since she didn’t seem that interested in coding or computer science for most of the book. 

When it comes to the actual love story, I was a little disappointed that the romance truly began 1/3 into the novel. There wasn’t enough of a build up for me. Dimple changed her mind about boys pretty fast and it was all about their relationship and their love from that point on. When the romance is painfully dragged out throughout the book it feels so much more satisfying when something finally happens. This could be because I usually read romance arcs that are thrown into books from other genres, and maybe that’s just my preference. 

I would definitely recommend this book to any reader, especially loves of romance. Even though I had some qualms with the plot or characters of the novel, I sped through it and finished it within three days. I enjoyed reading it and it was certainly entertaining. I’m so pleased that more diverse authors and books are finally finding their light in the literary universe. It’s about time that we hear more voices in literature and read the stories they have to tell. I will definitely be reading Sandhya Menon’s other novel From Twinkle, with Love.