Immersive #16: Greeting Card

Creator’s Note: For notable events in our lives, we often send or receive greeting cards, wishing the recipient well in their respective endeavors. It’s a way of projecting our hopes for a brighter future, whether or not we fully believe in at the time. As a result, these statements can sometimes turn into platitudes, rendering the message of a greeting card worth as much as the material it was constructed from. However, it all depends on the intentions behind the message and if we perceive it to be sincere. Therefore, through the medium of a greeting card, I turn to examine the language that we default to and how we, either as outsiders or insiders, evaluate the thoughtfulness of the message in relation to how close we perceive the sender to be. Enjoy!

Art Biz with Liz: Family, Friendship, and The Arts

The past two years have been filled with love and loss among countless others emotions and events. There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of trial and tribulation. Throughout the isolation, the arts have been an escape, even if I took a break from participating in the performing arts myself. But as much as I have always loved the arts, they wouldn’t be as monumental in my life without the influence of other people.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I took some time to reflect about where I am in life and what I am grateful for. Looking back at the recent U-M Women’s Glee concert, I considered how great it felt to be there in person and have a live audience, even if the evening did include masks. Yet, despite reminiscing over the semester’s music-making and energy from the crowd, I couldn’t help but feel a pang in my chest when I remembered one person wasn’t there.

My boyfriend, grandmother, father, and I standing outside the Keene Theater after an RC Singers concert.

My grandmother was always a huge part of my life. She lived less than a ten-minute drive away and came over several times a week. Among the million memories or character traits I could share, when it came to the arts, she was my biggest support system. She was at every choir concert, theatre performance, and piano recital. In fact, I don’t know if I would have continued taking piano lessons throughout my childhood without her. Without fail, she always asked me to “play her a song” when she visited. I did so, though oftentimes more begrudgingly than not (I used to hate playing for other people, even my own loved ones).

When it came to college and I no longer kept up with the piano, my grandmother came to my choral performances. Most notably, she came to my RC Singers and U-M Women’s Glee Club concerts. Below is a picture of me and my grandmother after a glee concert, the last one “pre-COVID.”

While I could give a lot of credit to personal interest, my participation in the arts wouldn’t be what it is without the support of loved ones behind me. I’m thankful for all the people who encourage me in my writing, music-making, or other art endeavors. I thank my parents for giving me the opportunity to take piano lessons, coming to my choir concerts, and even enrolling me in ballet, even if I only did it for one year when I was eight. I thank my sister for giving me a paint set for Christmas, taking me to concerts/musicals, and driving from Ohio just to see my performances. I thank my family abroad for always reading my writing and sharing their thoughts, even if they are half a world away.

My family members and I following the U-M Women’s Glee concert on 11/20

As much as I disliked playing the piano for other people when I was a child, the support of my parents and grandmother at recitals always meant the world to me. These days, I am thankful for the support of other loved ones as well, like friends, cousins, aunts, and uncles. While my grandmother might not have been in the audience at my last glee concert, these people were, along with my parents, siblings, and adorable three-year-old nephew. I’m also grateful to all the people who couldn’t be at Hill Auditorium but cheered me on from home or in their own way.

Some friends who came to support me and Fiona at our glee concert on 11/20

 

It’s been over a year since I lost my grandmother to COVID-19. The dreams, grief, and guilt still haven’t gone away. There are so many things I wish I could say, sing, or play for her, but I’ll continue to honor her memory in my heart as I participate in the arts, just as she would’ve wanted me to. And although Grandma isn’t around anymore, I have a lot of friends and family members who continue to support me. In a way, her love for me and the arts still shines through. And that’s something to be grateful for.

Weird and Wonderful: “Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman”

Into… the paradise of sweets!

Best TV Shows to Watch on Netflix: Kantaro the Sweet Tooth Salaryman – Ro's Recz

 

There’s a wide range of anime, from hyper-violent revenge stories to slice of life romances, but what defines anime as a genre is simply that it is (or is influenced by) 2D Japanese animation. Netflix’s “Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman” has made me question if that should even be considered fact at all. The 2017 adaptation of the manga “Saboriman Ametani Kantarou,” written by Tensei Hagiwara and Abidi Inoue, has all the wacky tropes and bizarre characterization that one could want in a comedy anime, but live action.

 

“Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman” follows the titular Kantaro (Matsuya Onoe), a salesman in the publishing industry, as he races against the clock to complete his sales visits so he can play hooky to eat desserts. At the office he appears to be almost too serious, but secretly he runs a dessert review blog called “Amablo” and writes under a pseudonym — “Sweets Knight”. Not only are the hands of time against him in his noble pursuit of sweets, but his coworker Kanako is onto him, monitoring his every move.

 

Kantaro the Sweet Tooth Salaryman' Is Your Next Netflix Binge-Watch | GQ

 

Although the dessert shops Kantaro visits are real restaurants in Japan, his out-of-body experiences with food get extremely weird. As soon as he digs in, he becomes the dessert, and is transported into an ethereal plane filled with other sweets. Heavenly music serves as the backdrop for Kantaro’s near-sensual monologues as the world around him turns to dessert. Slow motion shots show syrup cascading gracefully down mountains of red beans, and the show suddenly seems more like an otherworldly food and travel show than a comedy.

 

Onoe’s acting is impeccable as Kantaro switches from complete stoicism to goofily dramatic ecstasy. The rest of the show’s cast is equally talented at taking the personality of their characters to the extreme. In reality, Kantaro’s situation would be simple, so the pure melodrama of it all is what makes the show genius. This combination of over-the-top acting, exaggerated conflict, and dreamlike moments is what makes the show feel closer to anime than real life.

 

Kantaro’s obsession with sweets, as strange as it plays out on screen, is a reminder to enjoy the little things in life and do what you love. Despite all the obstacles presented to him, Kantaro never fails his mission, and it only makes him work harder. Though his motivation may be out of the ordinary, I think we can all be a little more like him — going after what brings us joy, no matter what others think.

 

The show’s willingness to get as unabashedly weird as possible is another aspect I deeply appreciate. At points, it’s almost uncomfortable to watch due to Kantaro’s expressions becoming somewhat of an innuendo, but this just left me wanting to watch more. It’s almost like a challenge to the viewer: continue watching if you dare, but it only gets weirder from here.

Kantaro the Sweet Tooth Salaryman] : r/animenocontext

 

The cherry on top? This show is pretty bite-size, with only twelve episodes. If you’re looking to indulge in something that will make you laugh and ask “what the heck am I watching,” then “Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman” is a perfect pick — and don’t forget a dessert to enjoy with it.

 

 

 

The Rise of the Band Geeks, Episode 8: 42-27

In light of our resounding victory against That Team Down South, your local band geek would be remiss not to write about The Game from the perspective of the Michigan Marching Band.

I’m just going to preface this with a simple yet eloquent statement:  WE CRUSHED THEM, BABY!!!!!!  YEEHAAAAAAWWWW!!!!!!  ONLY ONE FOOTBALL TEAM IS GOING TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP, AND IT’S NOT THAT TEAM DOWN SOUTH!  (As you can see, I’m still basking in the glory that comes from defeating Public Enemy #1.)

5:00 am.  Yes, really–we arose at 5 am in the shadow of the waning night to get fired up for the day we had all been waiting for.  Bundled up in multiple layers with our garment bags in tow,

I forgot where I obtained this from, but I am 99.99999% confident the image is public domain.

we traversed the distance from our dwellings to the sanctified building known as Revelli Hall.  For all the hype that coiled through the frigid atmosphere, the uncertainty of what lay ahead–namely, the expectation that we were going to lose–crouched in the backs of our minds for the most part.

We all wanted to win, of course.  But being a Michigan fan, as we all know, means preparing for the worst during The Game.  Were we going to be subjected to abysmal ref calls?  Succumb to a walloping by That Team Down South (TTDS) for the ninth game in a row?  Or were we finally going to show TTDS who was boss?

 

Pregame.  In all my time as a marching band member (so basically just this season), I have never heard the fans be so loud.  This was easily the rowdiest the student section has ever been.  And when the band took the field doing entries?  Utter chaos.

It was cheering for the most part, though there were spurts of intense booing that were audible with and without foam earplugs.

Truly, it was magical.

 

The First Half.  Cold.  Cold.  Cooooooooooooooold.  Where I’m from, temperatures do not dip this low for such extended periods during which we must be outside.  Compared to the eager snow and vengeful wind, the sweater weather that dominated October was a tropical paradise.  Lukewarm handwarmers, semi-numb fingertips, and–hang on a second–

WE GOT THE FIRST TOUCHDOWN OF THE GAME.

The rest of the first half unfolded as a true nail-biter (or glove-biter, if you were fortunate enough to have gloves).  The holy band beanies were indeed a saving grace against the winter weather (it’s still fall, right?  RIGHT!?!?!?!?!?!?)…until the time came for the halftime performance.

 

Source: @umichband via Twitter

Halftime.  Arguably the most crucial part of The Game other than the victory, the halftime performance provided heat where the weather did not.  The dusting of snow revealed the tracks of marchers as we went through our drill, our breaths almost as visible as the bull’s ferocious puff at the end of the first song.

By the very end, my fingers were numb and I was in physical pain, but retrospectively it was awesome.  And playing El Toro Caliente evidently worked, because the weather was less miserable during the third quarter.

 

The Second Half:  Where it All Went Down.  With each touchdown, each stands cheer, the tenuous hope we’d clung to throughout the first half gradually solidified.  Was this really happening?  Were we finally going to dominate TTDS?

I didn’t let my excitement carry me away until the fourth quarter.  When the score was 28-20, I knew The Game could easily be tied with a TD and a two-point conversion, which has been a sore sport for the Wolverines this season (read:  we’ve missed it every time, and the other teams seemingly snuck past our defense to score.  Yes, I’m looking at you, Sparty).

Then, in the fourth quarter, it happened:  the cymbal rank leader called Cheer 8.

The drumline calls a series of cheers throughout the game, each in a different context.  Drum cheers are similar to stand tunes other than the fact that only the drumline plays.  Cheer 8 is reserved for moments when we are definitively beating the other team and involves a dance that includes the whip, so its being called was a watershed.  All of a sudden, the possibility of victory felt real.

When Haskins scored the sixth touchdown, we knew.  The final minutes were those of surreal anticipation and chaotic thrills as the seconds ticked toward zero–

And then the football team rushed the field.

 

Source: @umichband via Twitter.

Triumph.  Elation.  Screaming brazenly as our lord and savior Carl Grapentine announced the final score to thousands of victorious Michigan fans.  A fervent rendition of “The Victors” exploding from our instruments as fans began to storm the field.  I sensed going into the season that the field would be stormed if we won The Game, but it was a mere fantasy, a wishful hope the dream of smashing TTDS would finally come true.

As my overjoyed hollering joined the ecstatic roars of thousands, the cold evaporated into a storm of maize and blue.

 

Aftermath.  …for about ten minutes.  Then, we had to wait for quite literally thousands of fans to clear the field.  (Also, it was snowing again.)  The field, when we did finally set foot onto it, was littered with detritus:  primarily maize pom-poms, although I did spot a shot-sized bottle of Fireball whiskey.

The MMB celebrates wins by wearing our shakos backwards from the conclusion of our postgame performance to the moment we enter Revelli after cadencing there.  Flipping around my shako as I had done for all the home games this season felt differently than before.  It felt magical, incredible, fantastic.  It also felt unstable because my chinstrap was not adjusted accordingly, and I was too dang cold to bother adjusting it.  Perched as it was atop my beanie (with help from my hand holding it in place), my backwards shako bore the victory as I marched along the pavement with a giddy smile stretched across my face.

Although the regular season is over, the band/football season and this blog are far from finished!  Tune in next week for more band-related hubbub.

The Poetry Snapshot: From the Rooftop, an Urban Symphony

Austin, Texas

For five minutes,
I close my eyes
and give into the prose of sound.

Motorcycles rev down 6th street
with a sense of synchronicity,
like a familial fleet.
A lasting roar of a herd on asphalt.
Tires on concrete reach a screeching halt-
a sound bite to a nearing stoplight
Racing each other yet sticking together.

A sudden splash of children in the pool
In a flash, a flicker of my eyelash,
droplets hit my skin rhythmically,
andante, andante
Its graze is cool, creating a haze so cruel.

I catch the gossip of women on a nearby balcony
A decrescendo of shared agony.
Their whispered words are rushed before thought
Hushed in fear of being listened to or caught.

A brief moment of piano
met with the forte of orchestral cheers
from Monday night football.
Empty pitchers slam the table as the crowd sprawls
Frustrated groans meet ecstatic high fives
As this game goes down in archives

Each melody is distinct,
Sharply detached, staccato notes
And creates a harmony so succinct
Before a tune is built the verse wilts;
my eyes open to the fading beats of an urban symphony.