The Magic of Grease Live! Why Representation Matters: Looking at the Korean Wave through the Asian Diaspora. A Success Story in the Making: Buzzfeed and the Era of Clickbait. How The Princess Diaries was my First Feminist Movie. Looking for Authenticity in K-pop and K-Hip-Hop. Is Music Dying – or is it Thriving? Why Children’s Movies Matter.

This is only a smattering of topics, only a few titles to future blog posts left unwritten. They are left unwritten because this is my last post on this wonderful, amazing blog.

When I first submitted my application to arts,ink, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had emailed my former-boss and now friend, asking about jobs at the office where Arts at Michigan is housed, the Office of New Student Programs. A friend of mine had told me that she had heard that they were hiring people to work at their front desk and answer phones. As someone who did not want to work in a dining hall (and succeeded in avoiding it all three years here), I took the chance and ran with it.

I got an email back saying there were no office positions open, but I could apply to two blogs – arts,ink and arts[seen]. I applied for both, and even preferred arts[seen], because I loved going to see shows and concerts, and I thought that learning to review them would be a good skill to add to my arsenal before I left college. I had low hopes, though, thinking every writer on campus would be applying for this job. Much to my surprise, I got an email a couple of weeks later welcoming me to the team – to the arts family.

I got hired as a columnist arts,ink, and I wondered how I was going write about something every single week for the rest of the year. I had so much writing to do for my classes already, not to mention the reading and other assignments for classes that weren’t English classes.

But now that I’m leaving, I don’t know where the time went, how I didn’t get to talk about these things that are still so important to me. It seems like just yesterday I was freaking out because Michigan Pops shared my post about their concert, or that I could not believe that I had gotten 5 comments on a post about what I thought was a little-known Chinese singer (the comments doubled to ten as I responded to every one of them).

A lot of people asked me throughout my time at Michigan why I never joined any of the other student publications on campus, as there are many. No one really reads these blogs. My friends and family of course read my posts, but even then, I know they don’t read religiously. When I send them links, they read, and they tell me how much they liked it, but besides that, Arts doesn’t get the readership that other places get. So why didn’t I join any other publications, you ask?

Because none of them felt like home like arts did. Arts encouraged freedom, encouraged discipline, encouraged creativity. I didn’t have to follow a weekly prompt or format. My task was simply to talk about art, in any way possible. And it’s in this freedom that I found my home.

I feel so incredibly blessed that I got to spend three years here. Writing, editing, reading other posts – I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s definitely been a challenge, trying to stay constantly creative while in a college environment that, at times, discourages creativity. And trying to keep up with posting every week while also trying to juggle school and clubs and friendships and families was never easy, especially this year, as a senior preparing to graduate.

But it was all worth it. I’ve become a better writer, a better reader, a better thinker – I’m constantly thinking and analyzing my surroundings, what I see in the media, what others tell me about their experiences.

Maybe there’s been some topics that have been left unexplored. But that’s okay. Because arts,ink will keep going, inducting new writers next year, freshman arriving on campus with wide eyes and ready pens, seniors looking to put their stamp on the arts community before they end their time at Michigan.

So this blog is dedicated to you, future writers at arts,ink. We may be the underdogs, but you have just found a community that will always support you, never limit you, always push you to write more, to constantly engage in the thriving arts community on campus. It may be time for me to leave, but it’s your time to shine.

Writing as Self-Care

Lately I’ve been pretty into self-care. Recently, I’ve been doing more yoga, and it’s definitely always made a positive impact on my life, especially when I can stop and just let myself breathe for a little bit, instead of letting myself get overwhelmed by circling my head around the infinite number of things I need to do before the end of the month. And I’ve been telling myself that I need to buy some actual yoga classes from a studio instead of just going around doing the free classes (thank you yoga studios for free classes though, they are the absolute best), although my wallet definitely does not agree.

But because of this increase in going to yoga, I’ve also just been thinking about self-care in general, in that it seems like in college I’ve always been stressed. It’s like I operate constantly on a small level of stress, and it always rises, and sometimes deflates, but never actually goes all the way down. And then the best way to deal with it is to read all the click-bait: “13 gifs of The Office that is College Life” or “15 tweets that completely explain how you’re doing in the semester right now.” We constantly circulate these posts of self-pity because we know that everyone else is doing as poorly as we are, and somehow twist it into entertainment.

But I remember a time before all this, in high school. I think it’s easy to think about high school as “the easy days” but also never wanting to go back (because let’s face it, high school sucks). But to me, high school wasn’t easy. It was honestly probably just as rough as college is now, just in a different, more naive way. I went to a college prep school where I was one of the top students, and even though I failed AP Calculus and only passed AP Chem because our teacher pitied our class, I still maintained just being shy of the top-ten percent my senior year (I was ranked seventh out of sixty-nine, so if you round up, I was). But I’d be lying if I said that was easy. I was stressing about getting into college, doing as many clubs as possible my senior year, as well as trying to take as many AP Classes without killing myself. I was crazy busy, even if now it seems like I barely remember it.

But the difference between me then and me now is that I wrote. I have multiple journals, both handwritten and typed, starting from middle school all the way until senior year. I documented much of my life, often because it was a lot harder to talk to my friends, and I grew up as an only child. I used my journal as a way of keeping my stress levels low – once I poured my heart out to my journal, I always felt a whole lot better.

Not only did I keep a journal, though, I was constantly writing. I have about a million different documents, some with bits and pieces of long forgotten projects, some filled with pages dedicated to one idea. I was always thinking of ideas, always writing them down, always staying inspired. I constantly looked up new artists, new music, looked for new books to read, bought more books to read. In some ways, high school was my most fertile time for creative exploration. I wrote poems, I wrote song lyrics, I wrote short stories, I wrote essays – but I never wrote because I had to. It was always just for the pure enjoyment of writing.

But now, in college, it feels selfish to want to sit down and write just for fun when I could be working on the next three papers I have due, or the discussion posts, or even my pieces for this blog. The weekend I cranked out over 20 pages of a story for the Hopwoods, my roommate told me how proud of me she was – not just because she liked the story (which made me so happy because part of me wondered if a lot of it was sleep deprived nonsense) but also because I sat down and wrote this entire story that still has places to go in a little over 48 hours, ignoring all my school work in order to focus on this mini passion project in the middle of the semester. She saw how happy it made me to work on it and to talk on it, and how inspired it made me.

But writing like that can’t always happen – I still have those papers to write. Sure, maybe if I want to go to graduate school and join a creative writing cohort, that’s what my life would be like. That’s not reality, though, and the truth is I have to graduate and find a job.

In some ways, I think that writing, reading, and staying creatively engaged was part of my self-care in high school. I may not have done yoga to calm my mind, but once I wrote a short story where the characters were probably too close to real life for comfort, I felt like I had gotten the problem off my chest. Maybe it wasn’t resolved, but it calmed my mind. And I miss that, I miss using my anger, my sadness, my happiness as fuel for writing, if only to keep me writing. Because although I feel like I’m constantly writing something in college, I still haven’t gotten to stretch my creative muscles out as much as I would like.

But the good news is I’m graduating, and even with job searching and part-timing and every other crazy thing that life throws at me, I know that I can always fall back on writing. Even if my self-care methods change, that love that I have will never change.

Science Fiction For Dummies: Orphan Black

Although I’m not proud of it, I spent almost all day Saturday marathoning season three of Orphan Black, this crazy awesome show that some people have heard of but most people haven’t. But for those of you that don’t know, Orphan Black is a show about clones. Crazy, cool, awesome, kick-butt clones. And I absolutely love it.

My time with Orphan Black started this past summer, when I was studying abroad in England. Although I definitely had zero time for Netflix, and to be honest who wanted to spend time watching Netflix when you could literally explore Oxford, I still explored the offerings that UK Netflix had to offer and was pretty satisfied. And though I wanted to watch all the things, I decided that perhaps starting one show would be good. So when the pubs closed at midnight, I grabbed some food from the awesome food trucks and started a new adventure with Orphan Black.

Needless to say, I was hooked, and burned through both season one and season two pretty quickly, although I ended up stopping around episode 6 of season two because I couldn’t completely ignore my papers, even if I wanted to.

Although I tried to pick it back up once I got back stateside, I never really had time for it, and since I didn’t have it on the convenience of Netflix, I ended up kind of giving up, at least for the time being. Instead, I picked up awesome shows like Jane the Virgin and Quantico on TV right now, and I was satisfied.

But for some reason, last week I decided I wanted to watch Orphan Black, and my roommate chimed in “it’s on Amazon Prime,” which we have on our amazing smart TV in our apartment. So, of course, the order of the day was to finish it as soon as possible. Last night I finished season three and season four thankfully starts next week, and actually at a time when I can watch it live.

As I was watching it, though, I started to wonder what made me like it so much. I do like sci-fi, and I love that the lead is a woman, and it’s definitely a woman-empowerment show, without it necessarily being in your face about it, because Sarah Manning definitely has other things to worry about besides the patriarchy. I love watching the intricacies of Tatiana Maslany’s acting, how freaking amazing she is at portraying all of these completely distinct women. Like seriously, she often has to play one version of a character pretending to be another version, which is honestly mind-blowing from an acting standpoint. Give this woman an Emmy already.

But I also realized that one thing I love about it is that it’s not just sci-fi. It’s almost a whole new genre, realistic sci-fi. I remember when I learned about magical realism and how it essentially blew my mind. That’s what Orphan Black is. It’s sci-fi realism. Although the science, I’ve been told, is pretty far from being accurate, it’s really fascinating how they use the science throughout the show. It grounds the entire plot, making it not “clones from another world,” but real people dealing with this scientific thing. It sometimes gets out of hand, and you are thrown into a world where things happen not as logically as they would in real life, but for the most part, everything seems plausible. Everything crazy that happens on the show happens for a reason.

Science fiction is definitely a strong, diverse genre that often does not get enough credit, being written off by people who don’t like “that Star Trek stuff.” And I’m sure Orphan Black is not the first sci-fi narrative to use science as a way to make something unrealistic seem plausible. But it’s possibly one of the most successful, which is really, really cool, and I hope there’s more like it in the future.

This Is For You

This blog post is dedicated to all the people, all of my people, who think that what they like is weird, who think that they’re the only ones who have ever felt or been this way. This is my ode to you.

This is for the people who love music so much that they can’t help but sing along while they walk in the Diag.
This is for the people who can’t dance but can’t help but to move when they hear a song.
This is for the people who sit in their room and watch anime and wish that their lives could be more adventurous, more daring, more brave.
This is for the people who don’t understand why no one will watch every B and C horror movie with him.
This is for the people who spend hours alone in art galleries because nothing could be as breathtakingly beautiful as their favorite paintings.
This is for the people who see beauty in the smallest of things, and this is for the people who see the beauty in the grandest of ideas.
This is for the people who know every name of every actor and actress in every movie.
This is for the people who watch every awards show ever….and love it.
This is for the people who watch The Bachelor, wine or no.
This is for the people who are so afraid to tell their friends they like K-pop for fear that they’ll be judged for it.
This is for the people who love to sing even if they know their voice will never make it to the radio.
This is for the people who spend hours in an art studio even if they want to do something completely different after college.
This if for the people who spend hours watching their favorite TV shows for the second, third, twentieth time.
This is for the people who are so unapologetic about what they love that they are infectious, getting everyone they know to sing along to their favorite songs.

This is for my best friend, who challenged me to leave my comfort zone and try something new, and how it changed my life.
This is for my other best friend, who supported me when I didn’t know how to react when I realized I liked something I thought most people would think is weird.
This is for someone I know that is ashamed of liking something different, when they don’t know how awesome it makes them.
This is for my mom, who has never once complained when I talked to her about something I liked that she had never heard of.
This is for my best friend who watched hours of television with me just because I was having a bad day and all that could make it better was Jane the Virgin.
This is for my best friend who will never let me be ashamed of liking “un-literary fiction” and who will always fangirl with me over reading young adult books.

This is for everyone, anyone who has ever liked something they thought was weird. That liked something that no one understood. This is for when you felt alone. This is when you wished someone would sit on a couch and talk with you for hours about what you love.

This is for your love. Your unapologetic, inspiring love. Your love for your art, in whatever form it takes.

This is for you.

The Way I See It: Thoughts on Albums Part 2

In a much earlier blog post, I talked about how I feel about the title “The Best Album of All Time.” In some ways, this is an arbitrary title to give a creative piece of work, especially considering how many millions upon millions upon millions of albums that have been made. But it also frames the question in a really unique way. Because beyond asking what your favorite song is, or even what your favorite album is, it’s just slightly more. It may not necessarily be your favorite, but it’s what you consider the best. It’s personal, it reveals your standards, and it reveals who you are, in some weird kind of way.

So this week, I want to talk about what I consider to be The Best Album So Far, since, as we all know, new and exciting music is being created everyday. In some ways, it’s my favorite album, and in others, I just consider it to be a musical masterpiece. And yet, I know that it’s flawed, it’s not perfect, and it’s not a widely shared opinion. But it’s mine, and I want to talk about it, and this is my blog, so ha I win.

Phoenix’s 2013 concept-album-but-also-not-really Bankrupt! probably flew under most radars that year. It’s the year Vampire Weekend released Modern Vampires of New York and Arctic Monkeys released AM, and although a quick search on (I didn’t even know this existed until today) finds a compilation of generally favorable, even highly praised reviews of it, even the slightly more than general indie band might find it hard to remember Bankrupt! because…well…Phoenix was old news. Although Phoenix at this point has been around for years and years and released multiple albums, their claim to fame was Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (another equally brilliant album), along with 1901 that I knew from the car commercial but I’m sure indie fans knew from other things. So then Bankrupt! was, in essence, that dreaded sophomore album.

And to be honest, the first time I heard the lead single “Entertainment,” I was not impressed. As a single, “Entertainment” is catchy, upbeat, fun, synth-heavy indie-pop. It’s likable, it’s pleasing, and made for the general indie population to consume and enjoy. But it’s not in any way brilliant, and it does not speak for the album as a whole.

So what is Bankrupt!? I call it a concept album despite the fact that the only concept seems to be non-concept. And yet, that’s what, to me, makes it so brilliant. When listening to the album all the way through, Bankrupt! changes styles at least 5 times, if not more. It never becomes content with the pop-infused sound of “Entertainment,” coincidentally the first song on the album. It can’t stay there, because that’s not the ending, but the beginning. The album constantly reinvents itself in a way that the listener cannot anticipate nor be completely satisfied with itself. And yet, in direct contradiction to that, none of the tracks feel jarring, or out of place, even when the songs get darker, slower, or vaguer. The album navigates the changes so smoothly that the listener barely even notices these changes.

I have listened to Bankrupt!, as a complete album, well over 100 times. Sometimes, I do listen to individual songs, and I had a phase where I did that. But then I started realizing that when I started with an individual song, even if it’s a few songs into the album, I kept wanting to listen to the rest of the album, rather than switching to some other artist or even another song by Phoenix.

And it’s clear that Phoenix intended the album to be listened to as a whole, as each song flows into the next, often playing the melody for the next song before the previous ends. Which is why it’s easy to see why “Entertainment” failed as a single in some ways – it was never meant to be a single. It was meant to be the introduction to Bankrupt!, with the rest of the album to speak for it.

I also personally love this album because the lyrics are just real enough to matter, and just absurd enough to be indie, always keeping you guessing. I also love the musicality, the way the music sometimes overpowers the vocals, like you’re hearing it live every time. I love everything about this album.

And for some weird, bizarre reason, I find it to be the best album of all time. I come back to it, again and again, and I’m always surprised by it. And that, to me, is enough to qualify it.

So then…I’ll ask again. What’s your best album of all time?

Passions vs. The Real World

It’s that time of the semester.

If you are currently in college, you know what I mean. Today in class one of my professors spoke openly with us, telling us that professors hated this time of year. After months of snow and winter and general gloominess, the effects are starting to show in students. They raise their hands less often, they feel more lethargic, and he described it as just a general atmosphere that all professors dread.

As for me, I can definitely feel it. It’s not only the lack of warmth and sunshine (that we seem to finally be getting here in Michigan), but just the everything-ness of this time of the semester. It’s not just having to do schoolwork, it’s having to do schoolwork, and find time for meetings, and friends, and jobs, and summer plans, and family, and – for some of us – graduation. It’s a list that goes on and on.

Last night I read through a short story I wrote this semester for the Hopwood Awards. I didn’t write a blog post about this, but it’s the first time I’ve been brave enough to submit anything I’ve written. I decided screw it, I’m a senior, it’s now or never, and wrote a 20+ page short story in the span of about three days, which, if you are a writer, know how incredibly short that is. I even got up at 9 a.m. to finish it up before the deadline, shocking my roommates who typically don’t see me up and awake before 11, sometimes even noon.

But I was thinking about how much joy that gave me, even in the midst of the crazy semester around me. I banged out a 20+ paper because it was something I’m passionate about. Writing, for me, has always been something I’m passionate about. And at the moment, I’m working on a research paper for a class..and yet I’m not. I can’t work on it, because I have so many other thousands of millions of things to do.

Inspiration and creativity are some of the most elusive characteristics of writing. A lot of advice I’ve been given in college surrounding my writing is to keep doing it, even when inspiration doesn’t hit.

But I never seem to have trouble with inspiration – it’s always the time. I get so frustrated that I have other things I could be doing besides working on a short story or writing Part 2 of the blog post about albums (I promise, it’s coming). And then this frustration gets worse whenever I realize that I have to do things I don’t want to in order to do the things I love, like write and read and watch TV (and think critically about watching TV).

But sometimes, life doesn’t work that way. I don’t like it, but it’s the truth.

This message is brought to you by a stressed college student who knows she shouldn’t be stressed but is anyways.*
*never stop writing, even when you’re stressed