At 20, Gratitude

This last Tuesday, I turned twenty and… yeah, I’m not quite feeling it yet.

I guess that’s probably normal. After I turned 13 I didn’t believe I was a teenager for a long time afterward. Though maybe I truly wasn’t a teenager for a long time afterward. These age distinctions sometimes feel a little too sudden for something that in reality is pretty gradual.

But in the eyes of aging conventions, I guess I’m a capital A Adult now. Not a lowercase one, like I was when I turned 18.

I figured I should probably make a post commemorating my second decade on this Earth, but I wasn’t really sure what I would say except… well… this. Strap in, folks. It’s story time.

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Heck, Let’s Start a Radio Show!

Shorter post this week because I have a really cool announcement for you all!

First of all, this one’s a bit time sensitive. My blog posts always go up at Sunday at 8:30 a.m., so if you’re here close to that release time, you might still have a chance to listen to our show live! We’ll be on here at 11 a.m.!

So, I was involved with my on-campus radio station, WIUX, all of my freshman year, but at the time I was kinda too… well, anxious to do any actual on-air work. But this year, with an entire year of college under my belt I decided now was the time to have a show.

And then, sitting down to apply for the show, the full weight of what I expected myself to do laid down on my shoulders. Right then, as if spurred on by fate, my good friend Marisa was like “Hey, are you applying for a WIUX show? Do you need a co-host?”

And so, Marisa and I began to formulate an idea for a radio show – Pork Soda n’ Peaches. A show where the song selections aren’t based on genre themes, but instead based on lyrical themes. Every Sunday at 11 a.m. we’ll have a new lyrical theme – like “songs that seem like love songs but actually aren’t” or “songs where the singer has weirdly specific expectations for their lover.”

As you probably know from the content of this blog (I’ve already done two lyric analysis posts here and here), this show’s theme is really up my alley and I’m excited to share my lyrical enthusiasm with the world! Plus, I think having Marisa with me as my co-host will really diversify the music we play. So not just the same old hipster stuff from me over and over again! Yay!

And what’s with that title? Well, I’ve been keeping it hush on the interwebs for the most part because that will be covered in our first episode, but since it’s entirely possible you’ll be reading this far after our first episode has come and gone, our title is a reference to two songs. One is Pork Soda by Glass Animals, a song I’ve analyzed right here on this blog. The other is a favorite of Marisa’s, a song called Peaches by The Presidents of the United States of America.

These songs aren’t random selections either. For us, they represent the spectrum of lyrics that deserve appreciation. Pork Soda is a deep song that’s fun to dive into the lyrics of, but just as fun are the simple, humorous lyrics of Peaches. Both are worthwhile and fun lyrics.

Anyway, this blog will return to its regularly scheduled programming next week, but I hope this week you’ll consider checking out our show (or if you missed it, check us out next week at that same link!) Or, you can follow the show’s twitter here! (You’ll be able to get sneak peeks of our themes every week there, and even a chance to contribute music to our show!)

We Can Do Better than This: “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” Review

I know I said the same ting last week but… I had a completely different idea for a post this week (in fact, the very same idea I had last week, go figure) but then.. my dorm floor sat down to watch another Netflix original movie.

Unlike last week, though, I have no warm and fuzzy feelings for this movie. Oh god, no. “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” is the wildest trainwreck of a movie I’ve ever seen and yet somehow it also manages to be completely unfun to watch.

There’s… a lot to unpack here. Normally for a review I would do a general overview of the plot with a spoiler-free recommendation on whether or not you should watch it, but… just like… don’t waste your time. Instead, I’m gonna give you a brief (and incomplete, but we’ll get to that later) synopsis with my commentary throughout because I’m fairly certain there’s no other way to capture what makes this movie such a forest fire.

First of all, let’s get the biggest thing out of the way first. The biggest praise I’ve seen thus far for this movie is praise for its diversity. “Sierra Burgess”‘s title character is a plain-looking fat girl and she doesn’t go through a makeover at any point in the movie in order to snag the hot, football guy. Rah rah, hooooray, whatever.

Here’s the problem though…. this is a bad movie. So diversity doesn’t really save it at any point. But, if you connected with this movie because of the diversity, because Sierra isn’t model-thin like so many of her rom-com contemporaries… I get it. But just hear me out for a second.

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Warm n’ Fuzzy – “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” Review

After a long time of really wanting to, I finally sat down on Friday night to watch Netflix’s new movie of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” and tl;dr it was amazing and totally deserves a watch.

I was a little concerned when I heard that this book was being made into a movie, honestly. I’ve read all three of the books in this series and they’re definite favorites, and it’s always a bit scary to watch movies made out of books you love. But thankfully, the movie lives up to the quality of its source material.

Much of the discussion I’ve seen surrounding this movie is about the diversity of it – the story surrounds Lara Jean Covey, a 16-year-old mixed-race girl in a story normally reserved for white characters. The story doesn’t shy away from Lara Jean’s Korean heritage, and instead integrates it purposefully into her character, while also allowing her to play the normal romance story roles. It’s a great example of what more stories should do going forward, and I definitely think it’s valid that so many people are talking about this aspect of the movie in a positive light.

But I also think this movie has a ton of other great things about it, and I wanted to talk about those aspects for a moment. As is the case for my other reviews, I’m gonna give a general overview of the story and a bit more of an explanation of my thoughts on it without giving any spoilers away, then I’ll be taking a spoiler-laden dive into it for those who have seen it or don’t care about spoilers.

Overview (Spoiler Free)

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is about Lara Jean, a junior in high school who lives with her older sister Margot, younger sister Kitty, and father in Virginia. Lara Jean loves to bake and has a penchant for fantasy. Though at home she’s outgoing and sentimental with her family, in school she is a shy, reserved girl who mostly stays out of school politics.

Throughout the course of her life, she has had crushes on five different boys, all of whom she decided to write a letter to in order to sort out her feelings for them. She stores these letters in a hat box in her closet, addressing them but never intending to send them out.

The story begins as Margot is moving off to college in Scotland, leaving Lara Jean “in charge.” Though she’s nervous about this prospect, she does her best to set an example for Kitty and deal with the change with grace. Then, unexpectedly, Lara Jean’s letters disappear and she soon finds, to her horror, that they have been sent out to all the boys on her list. Though one is addressed incorrectly and returns to Lara Jean, all the rest go out, including one to Josh, Margot’s ex-boyfriend who Lara Jean has been crushing on secretly for years, and one to Peter, the somewhat arrogant lacrosse jock who up until recently was dating Lara Jean’s former best friend.

Afraid of making Margot upset, Lara Jean devises a plan with Peter to pretend to date him, to serve the dual purpose of making it clear to Josh that Lara Jean isn’t in love with him and to make Peter’s ex jealous.

It’s a fun and heartfelt movie, well-acted, with great music and a really intriguing storyline. If you’re not someone who enjoys YA romance fare, you probably won’t like this one, but if you do it’s a standout in its genre for the relatable and round main characters and delightful writing.

A Deeper Dive (Spoiler Time)

The biggest mark of a good adaptation is that it retains the feeling of the source material. Every book-to-movie adaptation must be a little changed, but the most important thing is that the soul remains intact, and I think “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” does this perfectly.

What I loved about the books so much was the feeling they gave me. Jenny Han’s style of writing and the world she creates is warm and loving, like the literary equivalent of a cup of hot tea on a rainy day spent inside.

The movie captures this feeling surprisingly well thanks to the wonderful acting of Lana Condor as Lara Jean, who sells the reserved yet loving character so well it’s like she was exactly who Han had in mind as she was writing it. Plus, the soundtrack has an indie flair but still holds onto a nostalgic, gentle sound that matches this feeling.

And that’s good, because this story is primarily a character-driven one, and pays a ton of attention to the way characters relate to one another. Overall, I think the movie does a good job holding onto the strong characters, but there were a few missteps thanks to the fact the story had to be cut down for time.

As I’ve already mentioned, Lara Jean’s character is still well-developed even in the pared-down time. Her little character traits that made her so relatable and real in the stories – her messiness, her love of baking, her particularness for tradition – is still there and well-integrated. Peter’s character is explored well too, I think, never making him compromise on his sometimes obtuse personality in order to mold him into a likable romantic interest. Both characters’ flaws are explored well, and overcoming those flaws is what makes viewers root for them and their romance.

Unfortunately, a few characters, namely Chris, Josh, and Gen, don’t get as explored as they do in the books. This makes sense, because following the plotlines that give all three of these characters a bit more roundness would have probably taken away from the central focus of the story – Lara Jean’s quest for emotional vulnerability. I suspect there might be adaptations of the two sequels of this book, so I’m optimistic that one if not all o these characters will be explored further in those.

Though I really do wish Gen in particular had gotten even a whiff more of depth. Though in the books she is a real mean piece of work, she is later revealed to have deeper motivations to dislike Lara Jean beyond “she kissed my not-yet boyfriend that one time while playing Spin the Bottle.” Though I thought the “It wasn’t tongueless to me!” line was hilarious as an explanation as to why Gen does the horrible things she does, it does cheapen and possibly take away the possibility of further exploration of her character in the possible sequels.

Still, the primary emotional conflict, after all, is Lara Jean’s struggle to open herself up to anyone except her immediate family, and I can’t fault the movie too much for not being interested in exploring her backstory with Gen. That emotional line is well established and followed through, anyway.

But what really makes this movie, and this story, fun is the woven threads of fun plot tropes it uses to great degree. The fake dating trope is the big main one I want to talk about, because it’s not only a fun trope, it’s also really well integrated into the themes of the movie.

After all, the only reason Lara Jean enters the fake relationship with Peter is because she’s attempting to avoid emotional vulnerability with Josh. And from the get-go she’s making strict rules with Peter to avoid being emotionally vulnerable with him, too. But it’s that attempt to appear emotionally vulnerable with Peter to the outside world that provides Lara Jean’s first brushes with love. So, not only is the trope exciting to watch play out, it isn’t forced in the narrative thanks to the thematic connections it makes.

Overall, this is a fun movie and something I’d definitely watch again. And it really made me hope for adaptations of the entire series (Netflix, please).

 

BanG Dream Season 2: A Wishlist

Here I am, back to my old tricks again, talking about Bandori. Are you sick of me yet? Too bad! This blog has served content for too wide an audience lately and I’m sick of it. Let’s go back to niche.

On Thursday, the official Bandori/BanG Dream (I always call it Bandori, let’s be honest here), Japanese Twitter dropped a sneak preview of the theme song for the new season of the anime, and it reminded me of the… hilariously bad first season. Don’t get me wrong, I fully expect this season to be much higher quality for a variety of reasons beginning and ending with “They’re making bank on merchandise again and the English release was a wild success,” but I have a couple of specific requests for this season of the anime.

First of all, let me show my hand and say I didn’t actually finish watching the first season of the anime. It’s not really worth it, though, from what I’ve heard. The animation quality just goes downhill as the series progresses, and the plot didn’t exactly capture me from the start. But I do watch the two new mini-series “Pastel Life” and “Garupa Pico” and I enjoy them both immensely, so I’ll be drawing inspiration for some of my wishlist items from those two shows.

So, what do I want from the new season? Let’s dive in.

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Round Two

Last year around this time I wrote a little narrative piece on my first day of college. I started writing that piece the evening of that very first day, I was so moved by the swirl of so many different emotions it had brought me.

And now, it is the Saturday after I moved in. I’ve been on campus for nearly four days now, and I’m just now sitting down to type this. I don’t usually like to procrastinate this bad, and I can’t even blame it on the lack of ideas. I knew that I’d be typing out this post this week, and though I had to wait until Wednesday (the day I moved in) to come and go to start it, I should have been able to put down how it all felt before now, right?

But the past few days have been weirdly busy. And it took me a bit to realize why that is – why I haven’t had the time to sit down and really focus on my own writing.

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Saving Captain Leena (Pt 1: Introduction)

A couple of months ago, I talked about how inspiring I found the content of doll customizer Dollightful’s channel, and how despite it focusing on doll customization, something I myself have never done, it made me want to work hard at all of my personal creative pursuits.

Since then… well, I still haven’t customized any dolls, but I have a confession to make to you all.

See, I recently finished my final shift of my summer job as a respite worker for two adults on the Autism spectrum. One of those two adults would volunteer at a local Goodwill every week, purging clothes that had been on the shelves for too long, signified by a certain color of tag, which changed every week. I would accompany him to these shifts, and so I spent a lot of time wandering through the same Goodwill, week after week.

Because I spent so much time wandering through the same store, I came to be pretty familiar with many of the items on its shelves. While yes, Goodwill does get rid of old merchandise that has sat long enough, it was still fun to note the interesting items on the shelves and how fast it would take for them to disappear. An ostentatious sequined miniskirt here, a new, in-the-box Magic the Gathering themed board game there, a clutch purse with a magnetic clasp that had been torn from the fabric and hung loose and mostly unable to keep the purse closed over there.

These items became somewhat like familiar friends to me, and it was fun to check up on them every week. “Yup, the full Twilight series in hardback is still there” or “Hey, somebody finally picked up that teapot with sculptures of dancing old ladies balanced on it!”

And then there was the toy section. Oh, the toy section. I’m not gonna blame the employees of the Goodwill for this because I strongly suspect the chaos of the toy section was probably due in part to the many small children I would see getting a run of the store while their parents shopped. Or it could also be due to the fact that many of the toys that get donated to Goodwill aren’t exactly in pristine condition themselves, often having been played with roughly. There were tons of Barbie dolls with chopped hair, stuffed rabbits with suspicious brown stains on them, and cars with missing wheels.

But I still liked to poke through the toy section in particular. Maybe it was the piled chaos on the shelves that made it seem like if I just dug through the junky stuff on top I might find some real treasures underneath, and sometimes I would find myself organizing the shelves to the best of my ability, trying to bring forward those toys that looked in good condition to me, so that a kid might see them and bring them home without having to dig through the not-so-nice stuff.

During one of these excursions into the toy aisle, I spotted a flash of hot pink amongst the tans and blondes of a pile of naked Barbie dolls, and extracted a Monster High Howleen doll. Howleen is a werewolf girl with bright pink hair, tiny fangs, and puppy-dog ears, and I was delighted to find her. After all, Monster High dolls are a bit rarer to come by at Goodwill, since Barbies are way more common. Plus, being a casual fan of the doll customizing Youtube space, I knew how popular Monster High dolls were as customizing material.

Howleen was in really good condition, save for one thing. She was missing both of her arms.

Now this isn’t really uncommon for Monster High dolls. As far as mass-produced dolls go, Monster High dolls have a lot more articulation in their joints, and have both an elbow and wrist joint in their arms. They also have detailed hands that have different designs based on the doll, but the relative size of their hands to their skinny arms make it impossible for them to wear tight sleeves unless there is some way to remove the hands. And so… Monster High dolls have removable hands and elbow joints to make dressing them easier.

That’s all well and good, except these joints go missing all the time, especially in dolls donated to secondhand places like Goodwill.

And I thought “Oh, that’s a shame. Both arms are missing. Well, maybe someone will pick her up anyway and give her a good home.”

So I left Howleen on the shelf with all of her Barbie doll brethren, and went on my merry way.

The next week I came back and Howleen was still there. The next week, yup, there she is. And then we got to this week, my final shift at Goodwill.

I returned to the toy aisle and found that Howleen had been moved from her spot among the dolls to a separate area of the shelves. Finding her there, I briefly wondered who had moved her. Was it a kid playing with her, or an employee? What happened to Howleen during all those days I was away from the Goodwill? A little saddened at the prospect of never seeing Howleen off to a good home, I sat her up on the shelf and hoped once more someone would come along and take pity on her.

And then I stopped. Wait a minute. Aren’t I an adult with income that I, on occasion, spend on things? Couldn’t I buy this Howleen and ensure she would go to a good home?

But then, that was preposterous. What was I going to do with a naked Monster High doll without any arms? I wasn’t planning on fixing her up or anything. I didn’t have the materials, the artistic talent….

But then, if I didn’t, who would? Would armless Howleen just be thrown in a salvage box? Would she ever find someone who considered her a friend, like I had come to? And am I seriously considering this hunk of plastic a friend? (Yes.)

So yeah, I bought Howleen. She cost $2 and I hid her in my purse for the rest of my time at the Goodwill, slightly embarrassed at what people would think about an adult woman buying a naked, armless Monster High doll.

But as I stood there in the Goodwill, ideas began rushing to me. What if I made Howleen a cool metal-armed pirate, hardened by the battles that took her limbs but not allowing it to break her adventurous spirit? The prospect of fixing the doll up, giving her a new outfit and story, became a really interesting creative challenge for me to consider.

So yeah guys. This is real. This is happening. I, a non-doll customizer, am going to customize this Howleen doll that stole my heart. And I thought… where better to document this challenge than here on this blog?

So here’s to Howleen, the future Captain Leena, scurvy pirate of the high seas. And here’s to forming an empathetic bond with an armless doll sitting on a Goodwill shelf.

More installments to come, as they happen. Stay tuned.