Food is Art

Food is a huge part in everyone’s lives.  Not only is it essential for life, but it is also a huge part of people’s social lives.  One of the easiest activities to do with friends is to have a meal them, and to go out to eat.  The food network and the internet have also brought attention to the idea that food is art. There are so many videos going viral on Facebook of beautiful pastries and cakes being made.

One of my favorite youtube channels about food is bon appetit.  My favorite segment is about this chef remaking people’s favorite childhood snacks from scratch.  She does not have a recipe to go off of, she just looks at how the food is constructed and continues to make it until it is a perfect (if not better) replica of the food.  She will spend sometimes up to two weeks trying to perfect one recipe. Some examples of what she has made in the past is Skittles, Oreos, Cheetos, and Pringles.

Another very popular youtube channel and also has viral videos on Facebook is Tasty.  Tasty does a variety of videos with their most common type being making a dessert with some friendly music playing in the background.  My favorite segment of Tasty videos is when a chef makes gigantic versions of food. He has made a pizza slice the size of a cookie sheet, and a burger the size of a pizza pan.  I enjoy it because you not only watch him cook but he also explains how he is making it so that you learn how to make a normal or giant version of the food.

Another popular food segment is called Worth It.  It is a segment from Buzzfeed’s youtube channel. The videos feature two people who pick one food and go to three different restaurants around town to try the same food at three different price points (low, medium, high).  The show is interesting to watch because you get to see what the different restaurants do to the food that makes it a different price. It’s also great if you live around the area or are planning to travel there to already know of some famous restaurants to try.

Dan and Phil’s ‘TATINOF’ is the most fun you’ve ever had (in meme hell)

As I debate over whether or not I want to see my favorite YouTubers Dan and Phil again on their 2018 “Interactive Introverts” tour, I reflect on my experience seeing their first tour two years ago. For those uninitiated in Internet culture, many YouTubers are going on tour to promote their books. While most fans are happy to see them in person, there’s been debate on whether this is “selling out” when a major source of their appeal to begin with is the earnest sincerity of their home-made productions.

The sea of young fangirls that turned up at Detroit’s Fox Theater on May 10th, 2016, proved this isn’t the case with English YouTubers Dan Howell and Phil Lester, better known online as danisnotonfire (five million subscribers) and AmazingPhil (three million subscribers), respectively. They performed in Michigan on May 10th and 11th as part of the American leg of their “Amazing Tour is not on Fire” at packed venues. It is of note that the highest-priced VIP front-row tickets, which a meet-and-greet session and a large tote bag with merchandise and treats, sold out within hours of being available online. The tour is in promotion of their aptly-titled book “The Amazing Book is not on Fire,” which was a bestseller in the UK’s Sunday Times and topped the Young Adult Hardcover category of the New York Times bestsellers’s list for several weeks. The tour is a celebration of the duo’s vlogging careers in the same vein as the book it promotes.

The show’s premise is the ever-whimsical Phil put his laptop in the microwave in the hopes of getting superpowers. Instead, all of the content from both vloggers’s channels spills out onto the stage, including props emblematic of their online personas and their devoted subscribers watching their antics in real life, sitting in the audience. This sets up a night full of banter that has become their hallmark.

Audience participation makes up the majority of the spectacle. Staff from the tour search attendees waiting before the show to share their stories to be part of a live version of the regular series “Why I Was a Weird Kid” on Phil’s channel and Dan’s “Internet Support Group,” a video-medium advice column, respectively. The pair review fanart gifted to them by attendees onstage in the style of their popular “Tumblr Tag” videos. Additionally, there are moments when the two YouTubers let the audience choose what direction the show will take.

There are countless references to their videos and travel vlogs, so the show is clearly geared towards their dedicated watchers. However, there are plenty of twists to keep the audience on their toes as well. The show is unusually family-friendly considering danisnotonfire’s regular content, perhaps in foresight of the disproportionate number of younger girls in attendance, yet Howell and Lester share sides of themselves that are not explored on-camera. This makes “The Amazing Tour is not on Fire” feel like a sincere opportunity for the British vloggers to become closer to their fans, physically and mentally.

The show is a loving tribute to Dan and Phil’s achievements on the Internet throughout their ten-year careers. Everything from their modest beginnings to their gaming channel is included, with many inside jokes created by their fans referenced in-between.

Howell and Lester have been expanding the mediums they have worked with since 2013 — when YouTube saw an upsurge of popularity for YouTubers in the UK. They were hired by BBC Radio that year to present a weekly radio show titled “Dan and Phil,” later renamed “The Internet Takeover” when hosting duties began to rotate among the duo’s Internet friends to accommodate further endeavours. They also had cameos in the UK’s cut of the Disney film “Big Hero 6.”

Success stories of YouTubers like Dan and Phil crossing media platforms signals the transformation of YouTube from video depository to entertainment platform in its own right, with tours are a natural advancement in YouTube culture. The creation of YouTube conventions in 2010 like VidCon in Los Angeles and Playlist Live in Orlando has further established a unique type of celebrity status among these individuals, evidenced by long lines of devoted subscribers waiting to meet their idols reminiscent of meet-and-greets by more traditional celebrities like singers and actors. And that’s what YouTubers are becoming.

Media outlets have been tapping into YouTube to reach younger generations, from publishing houses to television channels. And theatrical cross-country tours, pioneered by Tyler Oakley and Lilly Singh (better known as iiSuperwomanii), have become the latest realm of YouTubers’ influence. It’s hard to believe that website has been able to create such a powerful form of media so quickly. The fact that London-based Dan and Phil were able to fill venues across the pond, where half of their subscriber base lives, from the comfort of their own bedrooms is testament to YouTube’s far-reaching appeal.

Stop Romanticizing the Suicide Forest

Trigger Warning: Suicide

YouTuber Logan Paul has stirred controversy at the start of the new year after filming a vlog in Aokigahara, a forest in Japan that is a popular location for suicide attempts. Paul, who is 22, caught on camera the dead body of a man who hanged himself in the forest and made this the thumbnail of the since-deleted video. The intense criticism he received led him to write and film an apology that focused on the intent of his actions rather than their impact. This not only put into question the boundaries of the new Internet celebrity in the digital age, but it also made me ask more broadly how Americans engage with Japanese culture.

As someone who is diagnosed with major depression disorder and has been hospitalized twice for suicidal ideation, I do not take lightly to the claims that Paul laughed and smiled when he found a dead body in the Suicide Forest. Against my better judgement, I took the risk to my mental health and watched the video myself. What I found was less offensive and yet more dangerous than what I heard claimed. It is difficult to summarize a 14-minute(!) video, so I will consolidate my reactions instead.

Source: YouTube

Logan Paul is an idiot. He tries to set a respectful tone in the video by doing things like have trigger warnings and giving affirmations for those who are struggling with mental illness to seek help. And he clarifies that his laughter and smiles after finding the corpse come from his use of humor as a defense mechanism, which I believe. But his lack of consideration for people who are mentally ill in real life is evident by the fact he would videotape A LOCATION FAMOUS FOR SUICIDE ATTEMPTS in the first place. You do not visit a place of death for pleasure; that’s morbid. You do not maintain your lucrative brand by showing off a place of death (regardless of the fact the video was not monetized); that’s unethical.

The fact Paul says he visited Aokigahara because he wanted to end the year on an introspective and quiet note is offensive. The mentally ill and disabled are not here to make you, the neurotypical and able-bodied, feel better by showering us with pity without listening to our needs to make our lives easier. That would be enough to see that Paul was not respectful of the suicidal in the forest since the conception of his plan.

Source: YouTube

But then he crosses a line as a YouTuber (having foregone basic humanity long before this point) when he demonstrates that his interest in visiting was, in part, to maintain the attention and expectations of his fan base. Though his followers have argued that he should not be blamed for randomly capturing a corpse on film because he vlogs his life everyday, Paul’s self-serving interest is evident when he ignores one of his friend’s request to turn off the camera and leave. Instead, Paul walks to the dead body, bringing the camera along with him for the ride, only saving the viewer from having to see the corpse with a text screen explaining that doing so would violate YouTube’s guidelines. I was at a loss as to why he would do this when he looked so visibly distressed throughout the entire ordeal until the end of the video, when Paul reminds the audience he had made a commitment in one of his first vlogs to entertain his audience everyday. This somehow seems to be his excuse as to why he found himself in such a terrible predicament: he insists on sharing the “positive” and “negative” times of his life because he and his fans are family (the Logang) and this is “part of it”.

I am disgusted at the thought of impressionable young people learning about suicide and mental illness from this man-child. Scarier still is seeing members of the Logang defending him because he was doing his best to please as an entertainer when he stumbled across the body. I could write for a long time as to how fucked up this near-sighted vision of celebrity is, but I believe it has been better said by people before me. I would like to use this space as a blog dedicated to the arts to focus on how our media informed Paul’s decision to go to Aokigahara in the first place, which he said was based on what he had seen in books and movies.

“The Forest”. Source: The Mary Sue

When he said this I immediately thought of the 2016 film “The Forest”. The film loses itself in its attempts to scare with traditional-looking ghosts appearing from thin air while it illustrates the landmark’s role in Japanese folklore and contemporary society. This matches Paul’s description of wanting to visit Aokigahara because he heard it was haunted by the tormented souls of the dead suicidal who try to tempt visitors off the trail, presumably to meet the same fate.

The movie stars an American protagonist named Sara (Natalie Dormer, “Elementary”) who receives a call from police informing her that her twin, Jess (also played by Dormer), is assumed to be dead after having last been seen in the Suicide Forest. She goes to Japan to find her, driven to explore the forest in spite of countless of warnings to not go off her path at the risk of making herself vulnerable to being terrorized by the angry spirits that live there. At the hotel she is staying at, she meets travel journalist Aiden (Tyler Kinney, “Rock the Kasbah”) who knows a guide who can assist them navigate the forest. Once she begins exploring the forest with Aiden and tour guide Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), traditional Japanese ghosts and American demons begin to haunt her. Once one of the angry spirits of the forest warn her to not trust Aiden, she loses her peace of mind and becomes increasingly paranoid.

The superficial jump scares used are pointless and only serve to conform to the horror genre, echoing Paul’s interest in exploring the “haunted” aspect of the forest’s reputation without being prepared to face the real life tragedy that inspires it. The sudden apparitions of traditional Japanese ghosts and modern American demons in “The Forest” invoke short-lived fear in an otherwise dull film, showing the same lack of respect on the part of the director that Paul displayed in thinking that co-opting and exploiting icons of a foreign country’s social issues is somehow an appropriate subject for cheap and otherwise unoriginal entertainment.

The fearful tone of “The Forest” is poorly conveyed through closeups of branches and insects, and ghostly wails in the wind, which are not scary in the least. Additionally, several aspects of the real forest are distorted, making the purpose of exploring the tragic location unclear. Not surprisingly, the normal forest (even with an unfortunate association) is not scary by itself. The film decides to take creative license in an effort to bolster screen time by having Sara see that various corpses of people who committed suicide in the forest are held at the Aokigahara Visitor Center, which blatantly contradicts the fact that in real life the Japanese government and police work hard to conceal the dead bodies in order to not only avoid attracting more people contemplating suicide, but also to deter potential tourists like Sara due to the notoriety of its basin. Logan Paul is more than willing to play fast and loose with the meaning of the Suicide Forest as well, failing to make the connection of the sad suicides he’s heard of and the ghosts that are said to haunt Aokigahara as a result.

Something that I fear is that people struggling with mental illness will only ever be seen as weak and objects of sympathy, which is a key issue I take with Paul’s brand of raising awareness and “The Forest”’s plot development. The gruesome death of Sara and Jess’s parents in the movie is referred to throughout the film for no apparent reason. It’s confusing purpose finally appears right at the nihilistic end. Sara is warned by locals that she possesses “inner sadness” and that she should think twice about embarking on her journey. It is implied she begins to be haunted by the angry spirits of those who committed suicide once she enters the forest due to her being incapable of coping with her loss. To the movie’s credit, this defies my expectation that the loss was that of her sister due to the sheer amount of time spent on establishing the close relationship she has with Jess. But once the significance of her parents’ death is revealed, it makes her suffering at Aokigahara seem justified for being innately weak, devaluing her noble mission and painting every victim of suicide as the product of avoidable emotional damage. This is a grave misconception considering that most people with depression cannot trace their mental illness to a direct cause, which is irrelevant because even if there was a cause feeling depressed for long period of times is not healthy and deserves attention and care regardless of circumstances.

The movie overall is anti-climactic in the extreme despite its rich source material, much like Paul’s vlog. Not once does the YouTuber bring up the high suicide rates in Japan that allowed the creation of such a place like Aokigahara to exist in the first place. The lack of depth is a direct result of the stigma of mental illness that both works perpetuate. Paul in his video did not even stay in the forest to camp as he had intended, failing to realize his goal of ghost-hunting due to him going unprepared to face reality. “The Forest” ends with (spoiler) Sara annoyingly having no impact in the disappearance of her sister while still having invited the spirits of the forest to plague her anyway, equating the devastating deaths by suicide of the ghosts in Aokigahara with her untimely demise that she chose while in a perfectly healthy state of mind. Moral of the story: the media can take its lazy sensationaliztion of deadly illnesses and shove it up their ass.

Finding Inspiration Over the Internet: Ode to a YouTuber

I’ve turned to YouTube for funny videos that brighten my day since sixth grade. YouTube is incredibly portable and accessible, making it one of my social media platforms of choice. Once connected to wifi, I can watch a video by myself or share it with friends and bond over it at any time of the day. I still use YouTube for the same reasons today. Yet my taste in YouTubers has notably changed over time. I am no longer satisfied with the crude humor of YouTubers like Shane Dawson. As I begin to understand how complex the world is, I am interested in content that makes me question my perception of society like the work of Dylan Marron.  But a YouTuber who has stayed consistent in my subscriptions is Daniel Howell, formerly known as danisnotonfire.

Source: PlayBuzz

Dan is known for his self-deprecating and depressed humor in his videos, where he philosophizes on his awkward social interactions and life’s greater meaning. He is one of the most well-known vloggers on the site at more than 6.5 million subscribers, and has kept a growing fan base as he and his close friend and collaborator AmazingPhil have expanded their platform by hosting a radio show, going on tour with a theatrical production, and authoring two books.

Over time, it became known that a fair share of Dan and Phil’s fans are young girls who are emo or depressed. I was shocked, as I didn’t consider myself any sadder than the next girl. And yet there was a way that Dan’s heavier jokes connected with me that was unusual for a comedian. I started to question why I found Dan so easy to relate to one day when I discussed his sense of humor with a friend my senior year of high school. This friend has anxiety, and one day during lunch she shared how she appreciated how another YouTuber, the makeup artist Zoella, was open about her struggles with panic disorder in a way that felt natural to her content. I let her know I agree that representation is important and brought up Dan’s dark jokes as another example of a YouTuber who recognizes it is okay to not be okay. My friend stopped me, saying it is clear Dan had depression and that his jokes were serious. I had never thought something was wrong with Dan’s line of thinking and was troubled by what that said about my own mental state.

Three years later, I am diagnosed with major depression and prescribed medication. The day after I went through the stressful ordeal of getting professional help for my worsening mood, Dan uploaded a video for World Mental Health Day titled “Daniel and Depression“.

Dan explaining how antidepressants work and sharing his experience taking them. Source: YouTube

Not only was I inspired by Dan’s courage in sharing his story about a topic that is still stigmatized today, but I was moved by how he was able to do it while maintaining his signature comedy and tone. I felt less alone in my journey to overcome my own depression by hearing Dan’s story, and this was in no small part due to the fact he presented his experience as another part of his life that did not deserve to be treated differently than any other part of his life that he feels comfortable sharing online. The video made me feel like I was getting to know a distant friend better, and not like I was watching a lecture presented by someone who feels self-righteous for bringing up an issue that is known to be hard to talk about.

In light of the criticism YouTube has been receiving for its new policies on video monetization and restriction, I am aware now more than ever of how easy it is for platforms that are made to give a voice to people can be limited and taken away. I hope the Internet continues to be an increasingly interactive medium that brings the world closer. It’s the only way some people may see themselves represented in an environment that sees their struggles as taboo.

Stretching Yourselves Whole Again

We all know the phrase, “I’m stretching myself too thin.” As college students, it’s sometimes hard to comprehend all that we’re actually doing and accomplishing in a day while fully wrapped up in papers, studying, parties, clubs, interviews, applications, volunteering, office hours, and hey, um, don’t forget sleeping, eating, and breathing! Rinse. Repeat.

Yogi Tea Quote via

And I say, it’s about time that we “stretch ourselves whole” again.

Image via




So let’s chat about physical fitness for a minute. Ever since I came to college and am no longer a part of team sports like I was in high school, I’ve become very phase-y. First, there was the running phase. That wore out. Next was the strength training YouTube videos. That quickly ran its course as well. I’ll always have dancing and walking in my pocket because to me, I never feel like I consciously have to be aware that I’m “working out.” We are all different beings, though. So whatever your exercise plan is, you do you.

But one thing we should have in common is stretching. Stretching is in a category of its own. It’s like tea in physical form. It can warm your muscles and your central system, while relaxing you to a calm. The heat from the mug can sometimes be painful to touch, but the more you adapt to its fire, you find it comforting and embrace it. It’s good any time, morning, noon, night, when you’re sick, when you’re sad, when you’re cold, when you’re stressed, when you’re chill, when you’re in pain, when you’re bored, when you’re among friends.

Image via

Okay, enough of the tea metaphor, you get my point. I’m not even talking about hot vinyasa yoga, I’m talking basic gym class stretches. Taking a moment to rub out the kinks of the day, to drink in the quiet, to listen to how your body feels and connect mind to body. We force our body to work so hard through the day. Stretching is your way of giving back to it. It’s the best non-vocal way of saying, “Thanks” (which is probably better – because can the body actually hear itself talking to itself? Philosophers, physiologists? What’s your stance on this?)

Now, you’re probably thinking, “What does stretching have to do with art?” Stretching is a practice of stimulating both mind and body at the same time, just like painting, writing, acting, dance – only at a slower pace. The carpet or mat you stretch on is an open canvas where you can let your mind wander, explore your imagination and discover yourself. It’s active, just like all types of art. There’s no correct way of doing a stretch. You listen to your own limits, follow your own desires. It’s recommended to open the window, breathe in the fresh air, scratch the carpet, draw with your fingers as if you were carving imaginary loops into the ground below you, hum to yourself, transport yourself to a far-off sandy beach in your mind while traveling deep into your heart. The more senses you can engage while stretching, the better. Stretching is your time to be positive, to be graceful. Allow yourself to be surprised. In the time that you could watch a V-Sauce video, you could also generate waves of positivity and possibility within your body.

Trust me, even through this hippy-dippiness, begin and end your day with a quick stretch. You know how satisfied you feel after you sneeze or yawn? Stretching is like a slow-motion form of your body yawning. You will love how you feel and you will find that joy steeped throughout your day [okay, tea jokes are now done!]

Best wishes for this final exams week, everyone!

P.S. Here are some of my favorite stretching videos on the InterWeb (if you know any others, please share them in the Comments below!!!)

Confessions: 1MillionDance Studio

I have a confession to make. Really, I owe it to you. There’s something I’ve never told you.

I love dance.

That’s right. I love dance. It’s something I’ve never said before, and yet it’s true.

Now, to be quite honest, I’m not a dancer. I took ballet and tap when I was little, but I never continued. I danced when I was in theatre, but beyond being able to do a jazz square, I was never anything special.

No, I don’t love dancing, though I will admit it is quite fun. That’s not what I mean.

I love watching people dance. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. My mom used to take me to the Nutcracker every year, and I think I saw the Jon M. Chu and Adam Sevani dance battle at least fifty times. Of course, I’m pretty picky about what I watch – I prefer hip-hop and modern forms to other classic types of dance, and I love a good jazz square (everyone loves a good jazz square). Which is why, when I found 1MillionDance, I knew immediately I’d love it.

I don’t think it’s a secret anymore that I like listening to music in other languages, and though most of their videos feature American music, I found 1MillionDance through their videos featuring Korean hip-hop songs. However, as I scrolled down the list of videos, I was surprised (and excited) by the variety of genres they danced to, with, yes, lots of hip-hop.

I marathoned the videos (and still do…whoops, sorry homework, you’re going to have to wait) and slowly realized I hadn’t watched this kind of dance, pure dance, no singing *cough* kpop *cough* in a really long time.

Which is why I want to share some of my personal favorites with you, to show that no, I haven’t forgotten about dance about an art form. Dance is beautiful, amazing, and expressive. Although I have no talent for it, I still empathize with dancers, even if I don’t know how to move and control my body as they do.

So, in no particular order, my favorite dances from 1MillionDance Studio in Seoul, and also why I love the dance so much.

Note: the dances feature multiple dancers doing the same choreography, learned that day (so there’s bound to be mistakes – nobody is perfect). The first dancer in the center is always the choreographer, with other highly proficient dancers or other choreographers sometimes joining.

Junsun Yoo is hands down my favorite choreographer for 1Million. His dances are always on point, and this one in particular blew me away. For starters, this is one of my all time favorite songs, and it’s not your typical dance song either. Sure, it has a really strong beat, but it’s not a hip-hop song, and yet the moves are so on point – the hand move for the bell is my favorite. Overall, this video is in my top 5 favorites from this channel.

If Junsun is my favorite choreographer, Bongyoung Park comes in a very very very close second. It was a hard to choose which one of his videos to post (His Maroon 5 dance is freaking amazing – warning, strong language in the song), but this one is hands down the most lively and fun. Bongyoung’s expressions throughout the dance also completely add to the dance, though the other dancers who don’t do expressions are also fantastic. Also in my top five favorite dances (which, by the way, these aren’t – just five I think you should watch).

To slow things down a bit, this is also one of my favorite dances. I love this video too, not just because Eunho is a very compelling dancer, and has freaking amazing body control, but because his dance can be transformed in so many different ways by the students. He performs alone, but two groups do it as a couple dance – and it works fantastically. But it also works in a larger group as well, towards the middle of the video. I especially love too how this dance tells more of a story. Warning – strong language in the song.

Lest you think this channel features only male choreographers, here’s Sori Na with a legit amazing dance. I love her too not just because she’s a fantastic choreographer, but because she doesn’t shy away from songs like these. Yes, girl power is super awesome, and dancing to female-oriented or created songs is super empowering. But dancing to something you love that might be considered traditionally male is also empowering, especially for me. Not to mention she just oozes swag. How can you not love her?

And last, but certainly not least, May J Lee creates an addictive dance to an already addictive song. Everyone knows it, yes, and it plays everywhere – I’m personally not a huge fan of this song. But honestly, her choreography is so on point that I’ve actually started to somewhat like the song due to how many times I’ve watched this video. Not to mention that I want to do the choreography every time I hear this song now. Watch for cameos from Bongyoung, from earlier, and also Koosung Jung, a fellow choreographer who’s also in The Hills video.

Go watch some of 1Million’s other videos, because they’re all fantastic, and who knows, if you’re a dancer and you’re in Seoul and you drop by, maybe you’ll be in one of their videos someday.