A Love for Bubble Tea

“Coming to college, Noah found himself succumbing to a crippling bubble tea addiction,”

-Noah, a freshman

Typically, I’d consider myself fairly practical when it comes to saving and spending money. The exception? Bubble tea. As teenagers, we’re warned about drug and alcohol addictions, but no one cautions us about the fun, frequently boba-filled drink that allures so many. A few times a month, three or four dollars from my paycheck goes towards filling my belly with sweet tea and bubbles. With places like Bubble Island, Sweeting, and more conveniently within a short walk from the diag, it’s all too easy to stop by and grab a drink after class. According to their website, Bubble Island has been “serving bubble tea to Michigan college students since 2002.” Establishments such as these are well aware of their captive audiences and the rising demand/popularity of bubble tea.

But why is bubble tea so popular? Unlike juice or soft drinks, bubble tea is often customizable and has different textures. It is typically associated with chewy tapioca pearls, which provide a unique break from the typical boring consistency. Popping boba, jellies, and puddings are also popular additions that offer a change-up in consistency. In addition to the interesting textures of bubble tea, there is a great amount of flexibility in choosing flavors, toppings, and more. Essentially, you have a free range of creativity in creating your delicious, desired concoction. Do you want smooth, chewy tapioca pearls, or fun fruity jellies? Milk tea, or fruit tea? It’s interesting to mix and match flavors, and the vast variety is definitely appealing.

In Ann Arbor, the social aspect contributes to bubble tea’s popularity. Buying bubble tea is often a fast and convenient event, but it is also a great way to hang out or relax with friends. Whenever I get bubble tea, whether with friends or by myself, I see groups of people spending time together. People will talk, work on school projects, or play board games while sipping on their drinks. Besides simply enjoying the taste, this social aspect is probably one of the biggest reasons I have come to love bubble tea. Once or twice a month, my friends and I will treat ourselves to the delicious beverage. Going out for bubble tea is a fun outing we enjoy doing as a group, and a great time to sit and chat for awhile. Since coming to U of M, bubble tea outings have been an easy (and delicious) way to catch up with friends and form positive memories. I write this post a few hours after one of these said excursions, and I can’t wait for more!

Bob Ross Paint Night

The man. The myth. The legend. Bob Ross.

About one month ago, the Residential College RAs put on an event that allowed students to take a break from studying to “paint with Bob Ross.” The event was called “The Joy of Painting: a wholesome night of painting” in reference to Ross’s television show. Students followed along with an episode of The Joy of Painting, which entitled following – or at least attempting to follow – Bob Ross in painting a scenery with mountains, trees, and “happy clouds.” Before delving into that process, it’s nice to gain insight on Bob Ross himself.

Though his death was in 1995, Bob Ross is an internet celebrity, continuing to grow in popularity. Before becoming the supportive painter we all know and love, he had an extensive career as a member of the Air Force. After attending an art class, he developed a taste for painting that would eventually evolve into a $15 million business. His company, Bob Ross Inc., marketed painting classes and sold his line of art supplies and how-to books. Additionally, his television show, The Joy of Painting, was successful in having thirty-one seasons. Reruns continue to air, and the show is available on Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. You can also check out clips on Youtube.

Youtube was used at the event to televise one of Ross’s tutorials. A smooth jazz intro played while paint was being poured, preparing us for the magic ahead. The sight of Bob Ross’s iconic hairdo (which was originally a cost-cutting measure) immediately generated excitement. As time went on, however, there were groans of frustration and frequent pausing of the video. Bob Ross made painting seem easy, and the unexpected difficulty resulted in moments of exasperation among students. Yet, Ross’s soft voice and continuous words of encouragement provided a soothing presence. Any frustration felt was mixed with amazement at how quickly and simply Ross turned a blank canvas into something new. Every brushstroke had a purpose and tremendously changed the overall look. Even though recreating his work was more difficult than anticipated, everyone appreciated the event and the fun break it provided.

What was truly amazing was how unique every individual’s painting turned out to be, despite being based off the same tutorial. The finished paintings varied in colors, shapes, and more. Whether or not students considered themselves artists, it was fun to compare works and be proud of the art that was created. My friend group found the event so memorable, we temporarily hung our paintings in the lounge we often hang out in (with support from the RC).

 

Do YOU want to paint like Bob Ross? Click here!

Take Time to Color

It’s no secret that life as a college student can be stressful, especially during final exam time. As the end of the 2018-2019 school year approaches, I find myself scrambling to make summer plans, pick classes for next semester, and study for upcoming finals (while continuing to learn new material). As far as extracurricular activities go, final performances, meetings, and events are already underway. Add in personal, financial, and family responsibilities, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. During a hectic time period, it’s important to prioritize and make a schedule of what needs to be accomplished. At the same time, it’s important not to push yourself too hard and take a break once in awhile.

Recently, I had an assignment to create a character representing a place of importance. Devising the character, drawing it, and coloring it gave me an opportunity to do something fun and different. Pencil and pen quickly filled white space, creating something new. Adding colored pencils to the mix enlivened the work, and I found myself being way more enthusiastic about the assignment than I originally anticipated.

While concentrating on adding color and shading to my drawing, I temporarily forgot about any current stresses. Taking a break to blend colors, shade, and add highlights and lowlights provided a refreshing break. The assignment was an excuse to take time for myself while still being productive. Throughout the year, taking the time to do some sort of art – in this instance, coloring – has consistently helped me relax. I give credit to time management and using art as self-care in helping me have a happier and healthier mindset.

The visual arts can be a great creative outlet for you, too. You don’t have to view yourself as a gifted artist to take advantage of the benefits of creating art, specifically in coloring. Coloring is especially great because you get to have control over how creatively expressive you would like to be. Taking the time for this relaxing and rewarding hobby can give your mind a break from your usual, busy thoughts. This has been evident in recent years, where there’s been a popular trend of adult coloring books (many of which marketed for the purpose of relieving stress). There’s even been numerous studies and research done showing a relationship between coloring and reducing anxiety levels. So, what are you waiting for? Grab some colored pencils and get to it!

The Universal Language

Recently, I had the opportunity to portray “Dawn” in a production of The Universal Language by David Ives. The Universal Language is a short comedic play that features two characters, Dawn and Don. Dawn, a shy woman with a stutter, meets Don, a con artist aiming to trick customers into paying for lessons on a made-up language. Don teaches Dawn about Unamunda, the fraudulent language, until the two find themselves enthusiastically creating the language along the way. Gradually, Don and Dawn also learn more about each other, ultimately falling in love. This short play piqued my interest for several reasons. For one, I enjoyed performing and learning more about the comedic style of playwright David Ives. I also liked developing my character and learning about the real-life universal language. 

I enjoyed playing my character, Dawn, and diving deeper into her motivations. Dawn had a unique dynamic with Don. She was naive but smart. Despite her apparent timidness, she displayed courage when initially going to Don’s “School of Unamunda.” Her stutter affected how she was viewed by others, but she took initiative in coming out of her shell and reaching out to Don. Her purpose in doing so was a result of her poetic and optimistic view of the world. At one point, she revealed the reasoning behind wanting to learn Unamunda – she held the belief that language was a form of music and communication, a vessel for uniting humans and thus eliminating loneliness. Dawn’s pure-hearted motive, drive, and curiosity in learning Unamunda negated her foolishness in originally falling for Don’s scam. In the play, she started out shy but ended up more confident and outspoken, thanks to Don and their newly-acquired language. I commend her kindness and passion for learning that even swayed her scammer into falling in love with her. In playing Dawn, I enjoyed conceiving this character from my own interpretations of the play. In addition, incorporating a stutter that gradually faded as time went on was challenging but interesting to work with. I also thought it was interesting to develop fluidity with Unamunda, and to overall perform a piece centering on a made-up language.

Throughout the dramatic process, both the challenges experienced and the research done pertained to the “universal language” in the play. Memorizing lines was particularly tricky because the words were made-up, and this unfamiliarity made a typical task into a bit of a chore. The seemingly hodgepodge of words and sounds resembled a mix of English, Spanish, German, French, and Latin. The language also referenced old slang and included allusions to pop culture, such as names of actors (“Johncleese,” “Melgibson,” etc.). Yet, while Unamunda is made up, there is an actual “universal language” called Esperanto. Esperanto is an international language that was designed to be easier to learn than other languages. Created by Ludwig L. Zamenhof, its goal was to foster communication between language communities and people from different countries. Interestingly, the language has sixteen regular grammar rules with no exceptions like irregular verbs. This simplicity makes it practical to teach internationally. When learning this, it surprised me how much the language is still used to this day. There are books, films/videos, and broadcasts in Esperanto. There are hundreds of Esperanto organizations and two million speakers worldwide. In additional to Esperanto associations, there are various apps, websites, and other tools that teach Esperanto and allow speakers to connect to other speakers across the globe.

Click here for more  information about Esperanto

 

Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information

About one month ago, my acting/directing class performed Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information. The production was produced through the Residential College’s drama department, one week before SMTD’s production of the same play. Both productions were done in accordance with the Caryl Churchill festival happening around Ann Arbor, which featured a weekend of free staged readings and lectures to celebrate the ingenious playwright.

To give some background, Love and Information is a jam-packed play consisting of a multitude of short vignettes. The scenes give a glimpse into the different lives of lovers, family members, and friends, evoking laughter, sadness, and more. The script for the play, as well as several others by Churchill, is unique in that it is structured in a way that encourages creativity. There are little to no stage directions, no scene numbers, and no named characters.

When rehearsing the show, the lack of information was a blank canvas that—while incredibly intimidating—forced the director and actors to think for themselves about the direction each scene went when rehearsing it. With limited punctuation and lines interrupting each other, it was initially daunting to successfully define the messages we wanted to send. Besides understanding the text, we were challenged to present a story within a short scene. Additionally, as artists, we weren’t the only ones being intellectually and emotionally challenged; audience members were often left to draw their own conclusions for the stories on stage.

By being both an artist and audience member for this show, I had the opportunity to view the stories through different lenses. To see different renditions was thought-provoking and entertaining. The build up and collapse of relationships between the scenarios varied greatly upon interpretation. For my performance, I played a high schooler, sister (revealed to be a mother), lover, friend, and girl in love with artificial intelligence. It was interesting to see these same roles executed by the SMTD cast. Some scenes were taken in a different direction, whether more comedic or serious than my drama class’s.

Apart from the structure of the play, the stories themselves spoke volumes. The play questioned the balance between knowledge and love, particularly with modern technology. Can one exist without the other? What happens if a person ignores one to rationalize the other? The short scenarios brought life to different characters, situations, and storylines that sparked these questions. Additionally, the use of technology by characters in the scenes acted as either a boundary or a tool in their attempts to communicate with one another. This use of modern technology added an extra layer that contributed to the play’s thought-provoking manner. Overall, through performing scenes, watching other students’ work, and seeing SMTD’s production, I gained an immense appreciation for Churchill’s play, Love and Information.

Art in Toronto

Last week was spring break. For some people, this meant heading south to enjoy warmer weather. For me and several of my friends, spring break provided a chance to go north across the Canadian border, where we spent a few days in Toronto, Ontario. There, it’s no surprise we faced blustery winds and cool temperatures. While my Instagram feed was filled with girls at the beach in their bikinis, my winter boots were covered in salt residue and melted snow; however, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

There were plenty of amazing things to do in Toronto. Besides eating our fair share of Asian food in Chinatown, we visited the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, and Allan Gardens. Places such as the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Casa Loma presented opportunities to learn about art, history, and culture. At the Royal Ontario Museum, there were textiles, sculptures, paintings, and other artifacts from various different cultures and time periods. Some of my favorite sections of the museum included the Rome and Egypt exhibits, which included impressive busts and other artifacts. Additionally, one of the most unique and grand exhibits was the Daphne Cockwell Gallery dedicated to First Peoples art & culture. With over one thousand works of art and cultural heritage—including contemporary art—the gallery provided a sense of what life as an Indigenous person was and is like, including as a person of ancestry living in the contemporary world.

A view from the outside of Casa Loma

Visiting Casa Loma was another beautiful and interesting experience. Casa Loma is a grand mansion that was built in the early 1900s by an electricity multimillionaire. Famed for its extravagance, Casa Loma had (and still has) elaborately decorated rooms with authentic period furnishings. It was too cold to visit the gardens when we visited, but we were able to go up into its two towers. Besides the magnificent architecture, we admired the ornate sculptures, stained glass, and indoor fountain.

An image of Graffiti Alley

We also appreciated seeing Toronto’s Graffiti Alley to discover a different kind of art. What seemed to be a little stretch of grimy back-alley was home to a mesmerizing series of murals. In addition to being a  narrow stretch of art, the alley represented moments in Toronto’s history concerning street art versus vandalism, and was worth the cold open-air visit.

Last but not least was the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). On Wednesday nights, AGO offers free admission to their collection galleries. We took advantage of this and explored the extensive gallery for a few hours. 

Still Life: Flowers 17th century by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer at the Art Gallery of Ontario

There was a vast number of paintings, whether from the Middle Ages or Impressionist movement. Besides paintings, there were drawings, photographs, and sculptures. Moreover, full volumes, videos, and mixed medium art were on display. The basement had a collection of model ships, while the fifth floor had a temporary exhibition called Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires. This collection explored how Black women are represented in art and popular culture by using colorful, dazzling, and provocative paintings, photographs, and screenprints. Another collection I found interesting was that of the gothic boxwood miniature carvings, which were small, intricately detailed religious wood sculptures.

Overall, the trip was a memorable one, and I enjoyed exploring all the art and culture Toronto had to offer.