Things I Enjoyed in 2012

I’m really bad with keeping up with this blog but figured I should post something before the year ends.

Since the last time I updated, I started my MA program at NYU and moved to New York. It’s been a huge change (one that was quite difficult at first), but it’s definitely been a learning experience. I’m happy to say that I’m enjoying my time there now and school has definitely contributed to my overall happiness. The beginning half of this year was possibly the hardest time period in my life – having to learn how to accept “no” as an answer multiple times, realizing that I need to stop acting entitled just because I have an expensive sheet of paper, learning how to be happy for other people even as my self-confidence dwindles, learning how to swallow my pride and face the fact that nothing is really “below my standards,” and so on – but I do believe I am a better person overall for having experienced it. Did it suck? Obviously. Would I do it again? Hopefully not, but I am, in a strange way, grateful for January – August because I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes and how to be satisfied and thankful for any opportunity that comes my way.

Now that I’ve explained my current and past mentality for this year, I’ll move on to much more exciting and entertaining things. This is a post about the pop culture-y things I’ve enjoyed this year – anything from movies, tv shows, music, YouTube videos, etc. I have to admit there isn’t anything groundbreaking here as I was/am a bit slow to catch onto things, at least for 2012, due in part to my lack of time and (mostly) in part to my laziness. Some of these items listed are things I’m sure most people already know about and may have even moved past or gotten over. Oh well!

So here are the things, in no particular order, that provided an escape, entertained me, or helped me procrastinate:

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A Summer Mix – JEAH~~~

A quick post (I still need to put together a post about the Olympics, which I miss everyday) for a very short mix of songs I’ve really liked or listened to a lot this summer. I haven’t made one of these in awhile and making this one made me realize I haven’t been listening to a lot of new music recently. If anyone has suggestions, please throw them my way!

Anyway, here we go:

living in a state of dreaming

1. The State of Dreaming – Marina and the Diamonds

2. Portions for Foxes – Rilo Kiley

3. What Makes You Da One (One Direction vs Rihanna) – DJ Nico (I think…I ripped it from YouTube)

4. Keep It For Your Own – POP ETC

5. Us – Azealia Banks

6. Lazuli – Beach House

7. Spectrum – Florence + the Machine

8. Radioactive – Marina and the Diamonds

9. Esta Noche- Azealia Banks

 

(I am also super excited that 8tracks mixtapes can now be embedded on WordPress! Maybe now I’ll make more mixes.)

I’m Calling Her the Chinese Mermaid

The 2012 London Olympics are finally upon us and I couldn’t be happier. Every four years, for two weeks, the world gets together to celebrate the fastest, the strongest, the perfectionists, and the most precise. Athletes who spend their lives training finally get their moment to shine on the biggest stage, all while proudly representing their country.

I’ve been looking forward to this year’s Olympics since the last Olympics in Beijing and while I don’t think the Olympics are as exciting this time around, you can bet I’m spending my days with my butt on the couch in front of the TV (or computer) cheering on people who are more athletic than I ever be.

Why don’t I find the Olympics as exciting this time around? Well for one, the Beijing Olympics were essentially the Michael Phelps show. He dominated every event was swam in and managed to rack up 8 gold medals; there’s no denying NBC’s claim that he ‘set the Water Cube on fire.’ He definitely made the last Olympics incredibly exciting and although he is still a force to be reckoned with in the pool, there is no doubt that this is his swan song. He got off to a rocky start after failing to medal during the 400m IM and was even out touched by Chad le Clos of South Africa during his signature event, the 200m Butterfly. In a way, this time around its Michael Phelps’ goodbye show. He has stated numerous times he’d like to retire after this and it’s almost moving to see him graciously come in second and pass the gold medal on to others.

Now the other reason why I’m a bit disappointed by this year’s Olympics. Last Saturday, I watched the women’s 400m IM final through a BBC stream (no thanks to NBC’s terrible coverage) and was blown away by Ye Shiwen’s performance. She came from behind and managed to swim past the favorite, Elizabeth Beisel, win the gold medal, and set a new world record. The reactions I saw online right afterwards were much like my own: awe and excitement. We watched Ye Shiwen sprint the last 50m (freestyle) and basically pull a Usain Bolt in the pool.

Obviously, it didn’t take long before someone had to go running to the press with his own theories and speculation. John Leonard, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Associate and (surprise) an American, voiced his own opinions to The Guardian by describing Ye’s swim as “disturbing” and stated that swims like her’s are almost always aided with doping. Since then, the majority of articles featuring Ye Shiwen mention Leonard’s opinions and doping accusations.

Why is everyone so suspicious of Ye Shiwen’s swim? This is what I’ve been wondering since Saturday and why I’ve been so frustrated with the Olympics and the media. The entire situation reeks of sexism and racism; it saddens me that a Chinese woman cannot do something extraordinary without having cheating accusations thrown at her(and to have them come from a grown white man, nonetheless).

I’ve read and hear a few of the reasons why skeptics believe she cheated and I will now break it down because obviously they need some help.

“She swam faster than Lochte! There’s no way a woman can do that!”

The media has run with this claim and unfortunately, a lot of people are accepting it as fact. In actuality she didn’t swim faster than Lochte. Her overall time for the 400m IM (4:28.43) was still much slower than Lochte’s (4:05.18). There are other articles that are comparing each swimmer’s last 50m freestyle, which is fine, but they seem to forget that Lochte slowed down a lot towards the end and had the clear lead. Ye Shiwen had to catch up to Beisel and pass her in order to win. Now keep this in mind when you compare the times (Lochte: 29.10 vs Ye: 28.93).  Is it impressive? Most definitely. Impossible? No.

Consider this: Rebecca Adlington from Great Britain once swam the last leg of a 800m freestyle race in 28.91. That’s faster than both Lochte and Ye. Here is a woman who woman swam faster than a man and yet, there is no public outcry. I suppose it’s different when you’re Chinese.

“It’s impossible to shave off five seconds off your personal best!”

Actually, no it’s not impossible. It’s been pointed out by both Ian Thorpe and Bob Bowman (Michael Phelps’ coach) that at Ye Shiwen’s age (16) great improvements are more likely to occur due to growth spurts, hormones, etc. Ye has grown about four inches since the Asian Games in 2010 (where her 400m IM time was 4:33.79). Is it really hard to believe that she improved her time by 5 seconds over the course of two years and after a growth spurt?

To further this argument about teenage bodies being capable of crazy things, I’m going to bring up Missy Franklin, an American teenage swimming phenomenon. She’s been the darling of NBC and won her first gold medal shortly after swimming a semi-final. Does that make anyone suspicious? No, again because she’s an American and as the media has shown us, we should just expect things like this.

“She’s just an unknown! How could someone who nobody predicted would win, set a world record and win the gold medal?”

I find this argument sad, as it shows the clear distinction between the media’s treatment of Ye Shiwen and another teenage swimmer, Ruta Meilutyte. Ruta is 15 years old and recently won the gold medal in 100m breaststroke. Prior to the Olympics, she had only competed at the European Youth Summer Olympic Festival. If you Google her name, you will find articles praising Ruta and her Olympic medal win and the fact that she trained in England.

Now if you Google Ye Shiwen, you will also find articles discussing her medal wins, but almost all of them mention the doping speculation surrounding her. There are few articles discussing her training and hard work and if any, they are from the Daily Fail (aka the Daily Mail which no one should look at as a legitimate news source).

Why is it that Ruta is praised by the press and lauded for her accomplishments? No one seems to be questioning whether or not Ruta was doping during her race (which I am not suggesting at all by the way). She had never competed in a major world swimming competition and yet she beat gold medal favorites, like Rebecca Soni.

Ye Shiwen, on the other hand, has competed on the world stage before, winning gold in 2011 at the World Aquatics Championship and silver in 2010.

“China has a history with cheating and doping its swimmers! Is it a surprise they did it again?”

I’m not going to deny the first part. History is history and it’s understandable that people are naturally suspicious of a country’s that done so before.

However, other countries have had its own share of athletes using performance enhancers, including the US. I don’t think it’s fair to immediately jump to conclusions that China cheated when America has its own history of cheating.

Might I point out Jessica Hardy? In 2008 she was kicked off the Olympic swim team after a performance enhancer was found in her system. She’s on the team this year and NBC has barely mentioned this amidst the current doping scandal. If we were to follow the logic that cheaters are more likely to cheat, shouldn’t we suspicious of Jessica Hardy then?

Ye Shiwen has been cleared by WADA and like British Olympic Chairman Colin Moynihan has said, “…that’s the end of the story.” Yet, there are still articles and whispers surrounding her. I find this disgusting and incredibly depressing. Because John Leonard spoke to the press, this accusation will follow her all throughout this year’s Olympics and most likely, for the rest of her career. Ye Shiwen’s race was the best event I’ve seen thus far and she could’ve been up there with Michael Phelps and Gabby Douglas as the great Olympians of 2012. However, this blatant racism and sexism displayed by Leonard and the press have prevented her from receiving the praise and celebration she deserves. Her name already is tied to the phrase ‘doping scandal’ and knowing the lack of reading comprehension skills out there, I imagine people will picture her only as a cheat, and not the phenomenal swimmer that she is.

5 Things From ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ That Made Me Laugh

Last night, I was fortunate enough to score passes to a free screening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in IMAX! Nothing makes me happier than saving $16 and seeing a heavily anticipated movie for FREE. I don’t think I’m the right person to accurately review this film because I’m not a huge comic person, nor am I a die hard Batman fan. Alas, I will try and do it my own way.

We all know that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is much grittier, realistic, and serious than the Batman movies of the past, which were more camp and at times, so bad they were hilarious and Nolan’s style isn’t for everyone. There are people out there who wish these films didn’t take themselves so seriously. Thankfully, much like its predecessor, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ does provide a few moments of comedy — maybe not intentionally. If you were around the Internet in the summer of 2008 when TDK came out and were aware of the numerous memes and gifs that popped up as a result of the Bale drama and sheer greatness of the movie, this post is for you.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m not kidding!

 

 

5. That moment when Talia/Miranda suddenly stops talking and closes her eyes and DIES. I love Marion Cotillard and think she’s a great actress, but that was so Drama 101. You know when you’re a little kid and you and your friends play cops and robbers or some other version of an imaginary game in which you get killed? And you and/or your friends always suddenly stop moving/talking to close your eyes and dramatically die? It was exactly like that.

4. The extras in the football field scene doing too much. I’m sure getting to be an extra in TDKR is very, very exciting. And to top it off by being in a crucial scene with Tom Hardy’s Bane describing his plan for Gotham? Terribly exciting. However, I couldn’t help but notice a few extras who were lucky enough to be the focus of their own shots and display “fear” and “confusion.” I’m not going to criticize any of their acting abilities because  it’s not like they’re paid millions to be in this film and most are probably die hard fans who are just happy to take part, but I will admit it was a bit distracting. Some of the expressions I saw made it hard for me to take the scene seriously because I couldn’t help but laugh.

3. Quinn from Dexter playing Quinn from Dexter. During one crucial moment of the film, JGL’s character, Blake attempts to save a school bus filled with orphan boys by negotiating with the cops blocking a bridge leading out of the city. The cop refuses to let any of them cross for fear of the bomb going off. Blake tries to explain that the “orders have changed” and that they had to let people escape. To be honest, I was having trouble paying attention to this scene because “HOLY CRAP THAT’S THE GUY FROM DEXTER!” Quinn has never been one of my favorite characters from the show, and it was hilarious to see him in this film because he was essentially the same character: stubborn, dim-witted, and unwilling to listen. I’m sure surprise!motherfucker Doakes would’ve let them cross.

2. That scene where Alfred explains he burnt Rachel’s letter and Bruce Wayne looks like Kermit (Bale). I don’t even know why this moment made me laugh so hard. I think it was a combination of me looking for things to laugh at and Christian Bale’s expressions. The dialogue was kind of overdramatic (“How dare you….” will always make laugh now) and Bale’s face was looked a lot like Kermit’s for a few minutes. I look forward to the gifs of this scene.

1. “Bururlkjkdfjkgjk” “Thsekljlkmkvejek” or how I could not understand a word Bane said. A few months ago, WB released a scene and the first look at Tom Hardy’s Bane to a few fans. One of the main complaints was how difficult it was to understand Bane because of the mask. As a result, WB and Nolan issued a statement saying they were going to fix Bane’s voice and make it more intelligible. I do think they did make an effort to make his voice clearer, but there were chunks of the movie where I sat their going, “What?! What is he saying?” I’m not sure who is to blame for this, perhaps sound mixing, but I do hope nobody at WB seriously thought Bane’s dialogue was understandable. Sometimes it was a bit high pitched, which worked because I could actually understandable, and sometimes it sounded like rocks rolling in a bag. And couple that voice with Batman’s notorious growl, you get scenes that resembled this:

Overall, I really enjoyed TDKR and I think most people will too. I’ve read a few reviews where people have expressed disappointment and I think that’s to be expected. The Batman franchise is so beloved that there will always be people who won’t be pleased, and TDK was such a huge film, both in terms of hype and profit, that it is difficult to top. I think Nolan did a great job of ending his trilogy and providing plenty of nods to the fans. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is definitely the movie event of the summer.

Fact: Asians Are Indeed Capable of Singing

As a not-so-ashamed fan of One Direction (I must mention that I bought a 1D notebook at Target the other day…best $2.50 ever spent), I will admit that in addition to listening to their CD and looking up pictures and GIFs, I also follow all of them on Twitter. Now, as I mentioned in my previous post, many of their fans display deplorable behavior; Twitter and Tumblr are cesspools of ignorance, racism, homophobia, and more. So I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised when I see a disappointing Tweet in response to Liam Payne’s Tweet of this really great 1D cover:

My initial reaction was disgust. Again, I really should not be surprised when these sorts of things appear online as I’ve learned this particular fandom is beyond help (keep in mind that many of 1D’s fans think it’s hilarious to make racist remarks about their very own Zayn Malik, who happens to be of British Pakistani descent). However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while it’s possible this person’s reaction stems from their own ignorance, it could also be the result of a bigger problem in mainstream music/pop culture.

There aren’t many Asians in the mainstream US music scene.

I’m going to recount an embarrassing anecdote from my high school years, so please don’t judge me. During my freshmen year of high school, a UC Berkeley student known as William Hung auditioned for American Idol with his rendition of Ricky Martin’s ‘She Bangs.’ His audition was terrible and just plain embarrassing, and naturally, as a 14-year old I thought it was absolutely hilarious. I spammed my own Xanga (yes, this did take place in 2004) with GIFs of William Hung dancing and made all my friends watch his audition. Looking back now, I do believe William was sincere in his audition, but I can also say that his audition managed to push Asian Americans back a few years. William Hung became a joke and unfortunately, embodied the nerdy Asian stereotype to a T and managed to leave many Americans with the impression that Asians can’t sing.

Since then, there have been several Asian Americans/Asians who have tried to break into the US mainstream scene. Many of them have managed to find success, such as Far East Movement, who are the only Asian-American artists to have reached the Top 10 of the Billboard 100, as well as having a Number 1 Song. Jay Sean is also the first South East Asian artist to have a Number 1 Song in the US. And most recently, Jessica Sanchez, a Filipino American, was a runner-up on American Idol just this past Spring.

Earlier this year, KPOP girl group, Girls’ Generation (aka SNSD) tried to break into the American market when they came over and promoted their single on “Live with Kelly” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” I’ve never been a huge fan of KPOP, but I started to root for them because I wanted to see more Asian artists in the mainstream music scene. Sure, they had a total of 9 girls in their group and sure, only two members were fluent English speakers. I still saw the potential for an Asian group to make it into the Billboard Hot 100. They were cute, they could dance, and they had catchy music. However, others insisted they wouldn’t make it simply because American audiences weren’t open to having Asians on their radio and televisions, especially if they couldn’t speak fluent English. It’s disgusting to even consider this a viable reason, but sadly, I do believe it plays a part. The above Tweet is just one of many examples of the xenophobia and close-mindedness that still exists in mainstream media.

That isn’t to say that Asian artists are few and far between in the overall music industry. Many are independent and underground artists on smaller labels or have yet to be discovered by major labels. And many more are finding success on their own without the help of the Billboard Hot 100. One of my favorite bands last year, The Naked and Famous, had a major hit with their song ‘Young Blood’ and their lead vocalist, Alisa Xayalith, is of Laotian descent. The Temper Trap had one of the most popular songs of 2009 with ‘Sweet Disposition,’ which would not have been as special without the vocals of Dougy Mandagi who is Indonesian.

And I would be amiss to write this post without mentioning the large numbers of Asian musicians who have embraced YouTube as a means to share their music. They have managed to skip the arduous process of hoping and praying for a record deal by simply uploading their own covers and music onto the web and many have become fairly successful, racking up thousands of views and fans.

Asians can sing. We are not all William Hung. Many of us can carry a tune, play our own instruments, and dance*. It’s a shame that mainstream media has perpetuated this stereotype due to its failure to fully embrace Asians/Asian Americans into pop culture (the severe drought of Asians in film and television is another issue as well).

*Sadly, I am not one of them (minus the instrument playing…my mom paid for 10 years of piano lessons and I don’t want to just write those off). Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy screeching during karaoke sessions or in the car though!

“Viva Forever!”…also known as THE SPICE GIRLS MUSICAL!!!

Although I was technically born in the 80s (1989!), I grew up in the 1990s and the core majority of my childhood was spent watching Nickelodeon, collecting stickers in my Sanrio sticker book, reading Baby-Sitters Club/Harry Potter, and obsessing over Titanic and a fabulous girl group known as the Spice Girls.

My love for Titanic has waned (partly because of Leo not aging as nicely as we’d all hoped), but my love for the Spice Girls has always remained. I think most kids who spent their elementary school years in the late 90s can attest to the power Victoria, Emma, Geri, Mel B, and Mel C had over us. Who didn’t play Spice Girls on the playground? Spice Girls lollipops were treasures to us bearing a special sticker, hopefully with the letter you needed to complete the world “SPICE.” Sometimes the teacher was kind enough to play some kid’s “Spice World” CD in class. Platform shoes were so trendy. Everyone had a favorite Spice Girl (mine was Baby), even if you weren’t a fan. And the movie to watch back in the 3rd grade was Spice World. Most importantly, the Spice Girls embodied friendship and “GIRL POWER!” I cannot stress how important those two ideals are to have, especially as young girls growing up. Sure, there were probably skeptics who scoffed at the idea of these fabulous ladies preaching “Girl Power!” but I can tell you that it definitely influenced many of my classmates as we paraded around the playground, held up the V sign, and shouted the phrase at anyone who stood in our way.

Like most major pop acts, the hype had to die down eventually and I still remember how shocked I was when I found out that Geri left the group. Things really weren’t the same afterwards, but at least the Spice Girls knew when it was time to end things. They did reunite in 2008 for a tour (I’m still sad that I didn’t get tickets to see them…thank you, finals), but got together for the first time since then to launch their musical, Viva Forever! As someone who watched Jersey Boys three times (yeah, not sure what I was thinking) and enjoyed Mamma Mia (the film version), I am so excited about this news. This musical will probably be the closest thing I get to seeing the Spice Girls in concert. I’m almost positive the tears will flow freely if/when I watch it, no matter what the story’s like. Judging from this video though, it definitely seems like a tearjerker.

A story about friendship and a mother and a daughter? Definitely bringing tissues with me.

Review: “Brave”

I was lucky enough to catch a free screening of “Brave” on Monday and was excited to finally see a Pixar film with a female protagonist. These past few years, Pixar has become the breadwinner in the Disney/Pixar partnership and have put out films that are consistently lauded and top Best Films of the Year lists. However, can you believe up until now they haven’t had a female lead? Even my favorite Pixar film, “Up,” lacks a substantial female character. As a child of the 90s, I grew up watching a lot of the Disney Princess films and while there’s nothing wrong with them (I think most of my friends know how much I love Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Mulan), they always ended with the princess finding true love (even though Mulan was a badass and saved the entire country, there just had to be a love story with Shang). I think a lot of people were excited to see what Pixar would do with a female protagonist because the animation studio has always produced innovative films for all ages. Now that I’ve seen “Brave,” I can say that I hope Pixar continues to put out films with more females.

I walked into this movie not knowing much about it, having not seen the trailer, and only vaguely hearing about the controversy surrounding the director debacle, and though I enjoyed it for what it was, I walked out wishing for something more. One of my favorite things about Pixar films is that they cater to both children and adults. Sure, it’s a stunningly animated film with cute characters, but underneath it all a Pixar film manages to present a story with a deeper meaning. Finding Nemo was about the relationship between a father and son. Wall-E was about the dangers the Earth faced if humans continued to live the way they do. Up was about learning to move past the difficulties life presented you with and go on any sort of adventure, big or small. At the heart of it, Brave is about the relationship between a mother and a daughter and how to learn and accept one another.

I don’t want to go too much into the plot because I’d hate to spoil it for anyone, but I do wish that Pixar had done more with the mother/daughter relationship. It felt a bit rushed for me and a part of me wonders if the story would’ve had a different tone had Brenda Chapman stayed on as director. I mean, does a male director really understand the bond between a mother and a daughter? I think that is what bothered me the most throughout the film. Although I thought the animation was stunning at times (particularly the landscape shots), I will admit that my first reaction to seeing Brave ads was that it looked like a DreamWorks film. It lacked a bit of the Pixar charm and I feel awful for saying this because I really want this film to succeed and show Disney/Pixar that female led films are profitable and are worth the time to make them.

Again, I really enjoyed Brave and encourage everyone to see it. It’s very cute and funny and has great animation. I am excited that this generation has a female Disney character to look up to and Merida is a fantastic choice. However, there was just something missing in this film and so I can only say it was good, not great.