Where I’ve been…And Where I’m Going

So…it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I started this blog as a pet project when I was a junior in college, largely without direction for the material I wanted to produce. I was, and still am, interested in many things. You can get a taste for a range of topics in the tags posted on the side of this blog. Retaining motivation to continually post is challenging when your subject matter is all over the place, and you have no established structure. This is a topic to delve into in another blog post, but my brain personally doesn’t work very effectively that way.

Let’s get to the point.

I want to turn this little corner of Internet that I’ve set up into a space to review and comment on media that I’m consuming. Being exposed to a site like Dramabeans has been an eye-opening experience when it comes to reading witty, sharp analysis on content that is relevant culturally and yet not immune to intelligent dissection and discussion. Now, I am not Korean or Korean-American, but I have grown up watching Bollywood and Tollywood movies. As I’ve learned and grown and been exposed to the world, it’s been fascinating to see how many times, a second-watch of a childhood favorite reads very differently to me as a 20-something adult.

There is nothing wrong with the casual viewing experience, but there is something special when the discussion is taken beyond the presented story and talked about in the framework of the entertainment industry, how it’s informed by the cultural and moral values of its people, and how all of that intersects to produce the media that we’re consuming. I’m interested in exploring the tropes that make Bollywood movies distinctive, and expanding my own view of the Indian movie industry.

I also want to extend this to the Korean dramas that I so love watching. There are many high-quality blogs and discussion forums out there on the Interwebs that one more Korean drama review blog doesn’t need to exist. However, I’m more interested in exploring and analyzing the process of the drama-watching experience. Whether it be the unique high of the fandom experience while the drama airs, how I keep track of everything I’m watching, or how to know when to cut off a drama, no topics are off-limits here! I will also not promise to completely abstain from drama reviews. I do not have the self-control to not share my unsolicited opinions on this blog that no on asked for.

Speaking of unsolicited opinions, the skating season is almost here! The huge ramp-up to the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea is beginning, and we’re seeing the promotion of rising stars in the sport . Nathan Chen is the current Team USA hopeful in the mens’ discipline with Vincent Zhou kicking heavy on his heels. As for the ladies’, veteran 2016 World silver medalist Ashley Wagner has been a consistent figure in the sport for the past two Olympic cycles. There are always surprises in the Olympic year, however, and the new ladies’ talent is ready in the wings to splash onto the scene. Let’s not talk about USA pairs. And ice dancing is, as usual, the model middle child of USA figure skating. Trains diligently, never any complaints or scandals, and brings home all the medals, but will never receive the same love or attention that a star ladies’ champion will. As you can see, I have a few thoughts on the sport so there will likely be some commentary here throughout the season.

So many exciting things coming up this year! I’m looking forward to hanging in there with all of you. It’s good to be back.

The Hottest Men of Figure Skating

THIS.

My Fangirl Life

Hello fangirls of the world. Have you ever watched figure skating? If you answered yes, “Congratulations!” You’re very cool. If you answered no, I would like to know “Why Not?” It is magical. I promise. Full of athleticism, artistry and pretty costumes. Luckily for you this week is the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships. They are talking place in Shanghai right now (well not as I’m writing this…it’s the middle of the night in China right now) which means you still have a chance to catch a few events. Come on…do it…go…watch… In case me promising it’s magical was not convincing enough, here are ten excellent reasons to tune in:

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Recent Drama Obsessions!!

This is not a proper post but I can’t help it, I’m in love and I need to let the world know!

EVERYONE SHOULD GO WATCH HEALER AND MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES RN COZ THEY ARE SO GOOD!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

I give them ALL the hearts! I am sorry (not sorry) for the blatant fangirling, I promise I will get up a proper post with actual coherent thoughts and words and normal people stuff when I am an actual coherent normal person who isn’t squeeing over the awesomeness of not one, but TWO excellent drama finds. Gah, I will be sane soon, I promise.

 

Youtube videos I wanted to talk about but haven’t until Now

I’m back!

So… I haven’t done this in a while. It’s so terrible, I can’t tell you how many unfinished or immaterialized posts exist in my drafts folder that I haven’t gotten around to publishing. You know what I need? I need to get myself into a regular posting schedule.

So I’m going to do something new this year. I’m going to put up a small blog post every week on Saturday. I don’t know what I will be writing about, but I will definitely find something each week, whether it be an occurrence in my daily life, a movie that I’ve seen, or something I’ve bought. I may post more frequently if there are more things I would like to talk about, but come Saturday, there will definitely be something to read. My goal is to keep this up for as long as I can and I hope this little exercise in discipline is effective and I can post every week year round! Yeah, let’s do this thing!

Okay, onward to the actual point of this blog post! As I said before, there are a lot of stuff, specifically Youtube videos, that I have wanted to talk about. In order to make up for not doing so earlier, I decided to make a list of a few Youtube videos here and write a small mention about them. There is no rhyme or reason to how these videos were chosen, the only commonality is that they’re all about different topics that interest me. I’ve listed them here in no particular order. I hope you enjoy!

BTS (Bangtan Boys) – Danger

I haven’t kept up with Kpop actively since 2012, but these guys crept onto my radar sometime this summer and I quickly became obsessed. I can’t even explain how awesome they are in coherent sentences, and if I tried I would probably just blubber all over myself. You don’t want to see that. No one wants to see that. So let’s watch BTS instead!

I had originally planned a blog post of my favorite BTS dance videos (and another with my favorite Kpop dance videos), which will happen someday but until that happens, please enjoy this awesomeness.

TVXQ! – Spellbound

Not a fan of the music video, but this dance version makes up for it tenfold. It incorporates the jazzy feel of the music very nicely and I love the casino/playing cards motif throughout the video. This is one of my favorite promoted songs from TVXQ in a long, long time and I am totally over the moon at how mature, sexy, and suave they look here! The choreography (and clever utilization of backup dancers) is a favorite too. I luurve it!

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, free dance at Trophee Eric Bompard

I love figure skating, but I haven’t been able to get myself invested in skaters like I used to the past couple of years. Now, with the Olympics passed on and older, more established skaters retiring, young teams like this one are coming into their own. This free dance is a dream and it is so exquisitely choreographed and skated. Papadakis and Cizeron create such gorgeous shapes on the ice, the first time I laid eyes on this program, I felt like I was watching moving statues. Statue poetry on ice. That doesn’t sound like it should work, but ooh trust me, it definitely does.

Yuzuru Hanyu, short program at Sochi Olympics

Remember how I hadn’t followed figure skaters the couple years leading upto the Olympics? Yeah, this guy BLEW MY MIND at Sochi. And not only did he blow my mind, he also blew everyone else out of the water with this short program, racking up a cool 101. 45 in points and shattering the previous world record. This short program won him the Olympic Gold Medal and made him the first Japanese Olympic Champion at age 19. I highly suggest you check him out.

Phew! I’m so happy I finally got to talk about all of those! I didn’t intend it, but there are two Kpop dance videos and two figure skating related videos. I guess it’s balanced out? Haha.

Anyway, cheers to a wonderful new year!! May it bring us all much happiness!

Stars on Ice 2014 Mini Recap

So, this is super late but I’m finally getting up to posting this! Yay for non-procrastination.

I went to go see Stars on Ice with my mother for Mother’s Day weekend (unintentional but very convenient). This year’s tour is pretty starstudded, headlined by brand new, shiny Olympic Champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White and comprised of several Olympians and up-and comers including Jeremy Abbott, Mirai Nagasu, Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold, Joshua Farris, Jason Brown (!), and Polina Edmunds as well as former competitive skaters like Ryan Bradley, Alissa Czisny, and Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre.

I’ve been to Stars on Ice a couple of times in years previously, but I have to say, SOI’s gotten a huge facelift this year with the renewed interest in figure skating that occurs after every Olympic cycle (because “Olympian” sounds better than the good old “U.S. Champion” or “World Medalist”).  And everyone’s excited and proud because they recognize all the names and are educated about the current state of figure skating once every four years. Which is really great, anything that puts figure skating on the map of the greater public consciousness is awesome.

Note: This isn’t a comprehensive recap, I will only be talking about a few skaters and performances that stood out to me. So if I didn’t talk about a program or act that you really enjoyed, I’m sorry about that.

Opening Act: 

Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre: To be honest, I never paid much attention to this couple when they were competing. My attention always wandered to the flashier couples of Davis/White and Belbin/Agosto. But I think leaving amateur competition has been good for them because they have really grown as performers. I really enjoyed their programs and thought they had a great energy and charisma on the ice.

Mirai Nagasu: This girl is amazing. She went out there and KILLED both of her programs. She’s always been a gifted skater (though not the strongest when faced with nerves) and I recall seeing her perform in Stars on Ice a few years ago when both she and I were much younger. She was precocious then, bringing strong skating skills but no real sense of a stage or performance personality, but here she was breathtaking beautiful. The emotions were all there, she was wistful, vulnerable, and strong when she needed to be each of those things. And she didn’t sacrifice strong skating for a good performance either. In fact, that is partly what made her performance so impactful and mature. She’s had a rough couple of years in terms of competition but I’m glad she went through them because there’s something to be said for maturity and the way it makes you grow and develop as a performer and artist. Mirai Nagasu has so much potential for success and it is my hope that she lets herself shine like the bright star she is.

Jeremy Abbott: As always, a strong skater and performer. His Latch program was great, the first half all heartfelt emotion suddenly switching music into a sassier, sexier performance. Jeremy Abbott knows what he does well, but I kind of wish he would push the envelope a little bit more. He’s wonderful as he is, but I want to see what else he can bring to the table.

Ashley Wagner: Wasn’t too impressed with her first number but her second piece, a darker more haunting one set to “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Ray really got my attention, although the song choice admittedly might have contributed to that. Regardless, Wagner did the song justice and skated with a lot of energy and speed.

Joshua Farris: This guy really caught me by surprise. I hadn’t been keeping track of his career, but I will now because he was one of the real highlights for me of the evening. He builds up and retains momentum and speed around the rink very well and his skating is very light and airy. But even more impressive than his skating skills were his showmanship and natural performance ability. It’s saying something that in a cast of veterans he was able to stand out and really make the audience take notice.

All-Men’s Performance: They were like skating crayons, it was awesome!! I really enjoyed the colorfulness of this number with the primary color jeans and the Converse bootcovers. The song was fun and the choreography was even more fun and lighthearted. Joshua Farris (the red crayon) really stood out in this number and brought the energy and fun and showmanship.

Jason Brown: What can I say about this guy that hasn’t already been said. He is such an amazing performer and an even more amazing human being. He performed the Riverdance free dance that made him famous as well as his exhibition to “U Can’t Touch This”, complete with hammer pants. It was the awesomest thing. He has a wonderfully bright future ahead of him.

Alissa Csizny: She was never one of my favorites when she was active in the competitive circuit, but I always appreciated her artistry and elegance on the ice. Seeing those qualities in person was such a treat for me. Her programs were subtly beautiful, but they never felt boring. The dynamism coupled with the elegance and grace made for a very entertaining program. It’s a shame she was not more successful in competition.

Alissa Csizny and Jeremy Abbott: These two are training mates and good friends and they were delightfully charming in this peppy, lighthearted program. Both of them are very elegant, graceful skaters with great musicality and wonderful lines, and this program really highlighted those qualities. It was rather short, but it was a pleasure to watch. I would love to see more collaborations between singles skaters like this one.

 

Overall, it was successful show and I really enjoyed myself. Having not really been up-to-date about the skating world for the past couple of years until, of course, the Sochi Olympics, it felt really good to go see some live skating and re-familiarize myself with the joys of watching the sport. I’ve followed Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s careers since 2007 (as well as Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir) and seeing them live was like having longtime wish fulfilled. I was also able to watch Polina Edmunds perform in her SOI debut, which was really special for me. She and I used to skate in the same rink back when I used to ice skate and it turns out she is a student at my former high school! She was always a very gifted skater and I wish her all the success in the world. From discovering new skating loves (Josh Farris), to having a fangirl moment during a program (Jason Brown I blame you), to spending time with my mama, it was a Mother’s Day well spent.

Spotlight: My Bulgarian Dream Team

DenkovaStaviski

I first beheld ice dancing at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and was very intrigued but soon forgot about the magical appeal it held for me after the Olympics concluded. I rediscovered it in 2003 while reading a book profiling several skaters and ice dancers and I’ve since been hooked. My first favorites were Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski and they were from Bulgaria, a country with little to no skating tradition. Albena and Maxim were trailblazers for their sport and for their countrymen. A team that had unique choreography with an edge, meaningful interpretation of music, and exciting skating full of speed, they were underappreciated for much of their career and worked hard to make a name for themselves. They improved their skating technique, upped their technical ante, and worked to build a better connection between themselves and with the audience. It payed off. They have not won a Olympic medal, but they are proud 2006 and 2007 World Champions.

There was always something so special about them to me, some dynamic of their skating quality that really pulled me into their programs and their performances. They had so much speed on the ice that whatever they did had more flair and more drama than anyone else. Maxim, to me, was one of the best competitive male ice dancers in the world. The way he used his body to create dance movements was something truly exquisite. He had fantastic technical skills and a great sense of showmanship and artistry. I sometimes forget how amazing he is until I watch him and then I fall in love with his skating all over again.

They’ve had a long career and have performed and competed at many venues, but these are just some of my sentimental favorites from them that I want to highlight.

Libertango OD (Original Dance) at the 2007 World Championships

This is ballroom tango poetry on ice. I can’t even describe the awe I feel every time I rewatch this program. They capture the spirit and style of Argentine tango so perfectly on ice and that straight line footwork in the beginning shows why they were the best in the world. No one could touch the speed and style with the little touches of detail and finesse that they had.

Adagio FD (Free Dance) at the 2006 Winter Olympics

This free dance won them their first World title and with good reason. This free dance set to Adagio by Tomas Albinoni is magical, intense, and dramatic and they performed it with so much fire and passion. They may have finished 5th at the Torino Olympics and as disappointing as that is, it is their performance that is going to stand the test of time for me.

Latin OD at the 2006 Winter Olympics

This is the first program of theirs that I saw when I was re-introduced to them at the 2006 Olympics in Torino. It was passionate and they made a such a striking pair (even if their hair looked exactly the same to me). I was seriously mesmerized by the gorgeous straight line lift in the middle section and I literally spent days trying to work out how they did that lift when he wasn’t holding her up vertically with his arms (turns out she was doing all the work, haha). I reaally got into ice dancing after these Olympics, following the sport during the regular season and keeping up to date on the results and competitors.

Absinthe Drinker Exhibition at the 2003 Grand Prix Final

This is the only non-competitive exhibition program on this list, but they have quite a few notable exhibition programs to their credit. But this is my particular favorite. This program has an intoxicating (ha) ambiance and it’s personal and intimate with some really clever choreography and great acting by Albena and Max.

I’m Watching Quite a Few K-Dramas Lately…

The first Korean drama I ever watched was around two and a half years ago, but in the past year I’ve really gotten into them and become more immersed in the K-ent world. I go through dry spells and fertile ones (since we’re using a farming analogy…) but I’m usually watching at least one or two.

But lately, I don’t know if I had a bunch of free time because of winter break or if there were just that many dramas that appealed to me but I’m currently watching six dramas. SIX. And since I am watching so much television, I thought that I might as well quickly give my thoughts on these dramas. Most of them (except for Return of Iljimae) are currently airing so I cannot marathon the episodes and instead I watch them as they air. My impressions of the dramas are only based on what I’ve seen so far so I will include the episode that I have seen up to. I may go over the general premise of the drama, but there will absolutely be no spoilers.

Prime Minister and I (watched up to ep. 9): Dramaland’s been wanting for good rom-com’s this year and it was only in December that this adorable little gem aired. The basis of the story that ties the leads together is a contract marriage between the Prime Minister and a reporter (it’s a Sound of Music-type setup). So far, this show has been really enjoyable to watch. I love the chemistry between the two leads, which is something I never thought I would say when I first heard of the Yoona and Lee Bum Soo pairing (they have a real life 20 year age difference). I love that this show focuses on their development as a couple without letting the conflict be dictated by Fate or outside issues that don’t matter. It really takes me on their journey and really makes me feel for their relationship and relate to their struggles as individuals, as a couple, and as a family. I highly recommend checking it out if you love romantic comedies.

You From Another Star (watched up to ep. 8): This is another late-year rom com offering. It stars A-listers Kim Soo-hyun and Jeon Ji-hyun (in her first drama in 14 years!) and the premise is of an alien who landed on Earth 400 years ago and lived through those 400 years to the present time, in which he falls in love with a star actress who is famously prickly and bad-tempered. Kim Soo-hyun and Jeon Ji-hyun have fabulous chemistry and Jeon Ji-hyun is knocking it out of the park as haughty, vulnerable top star Cheon Song-yi. I love her character. I also love the pacing of this show, I never feel like it drags or loses my attention. In fact, I hardly notice an hour go by because this drama is so good at presenting a polished entertaining episodeIt doesn’t grab me in the heart the way Prime Minister and I does, but it’s a harmlessly cute show with a fast pace that will keep your eyes glued to the screen.

Miss Korea (watched up to ep. 6): I like this drama but I’m never fully there with it because it’s always confusing me in some way or another. The pacing is a little slow, I can’t quite figure out what the state of the relationships the characters have with each other, etc. There’s always something.  Which is a shame, because it had lots of potential to be awesome.  It does do a couple of things right, like setting up a very interesting story about a declining cosmetics company staking their future on a Miss Korea competition, maintaining an intriguingly darker tone than a traditional romantic comedy, and boasting strong acting performances from the cast. Speaking of which, I am quite impressed by Lee Yeon-hee. I have only previously seen her in Paradise Ranch with DBSK’S Changmin and she’s waaay better here than she was there. Her acting has improved but I also think this character was a better fit for her. I will continue watching it, because I want to see the resolution of the relationships in the show and how the underdog cosmetics company triumphs. Also, Lee Seon-kyun. Phwoar. He’s not called The Voice for nothing.

Let’s Eat (watched up to ep. 7): FOOD POOOOORN. That is all. But seriously though, I am really really liking this little show. I admit, I did initially begin to watch it because of the low watching commitment of one episode a week and the premise based on single people who get lonely only when there’s no one to eat with. However, this show has turned out to be be surprisingly substantive. The heroine has a temper and tends to be suspicious of everyone but man, the gusto with which she savors her food leaves me a little bit in awe every time.  The relationships in the show are turning out to be really sweet and meaningful as well. It’s not the most groundbreaking show but it is thoroughly enjoyable and I am loving the sweet low-angst interactions between all the characters. But make sure to eat something while you’re watching otherwise you are definitely going to get hungry.

Return of Iljimae (watched up to ep. 13): This is a story about a Robin Hood-esque figure called Iljimae who uses his badass martial arts skills to mete out justice to those who are undeservedly privileged. The acting is wonderful here, the music is exquisite and fits the scene flawlessly, the background and settings are picturesque, and the story is as consistent as a rock. This drama very clearly knows where it is going and it is set on its path to accomplish that goal. Basically, this drama is gorgeous. Jung Il Woo is gorgeous. Jung Il Woo’s mane of glory is gorgeous. I’m in love. That is all.

Aaand surprise!! I’ve started watching my first Taiwanese drama!

In a Good Way (watched up to ep. 8): I don’t think it’s possible for me to talk about this drama without squealing like a pig. Gahhhh!! I love love love this drama. It’s a story set in 1995 Taiwan about youngsters and it explores their college years as they live, love, and learn to grow up, one life experience at a time. This drama has one of the most squeal-worthy OTP’s that I’ve seen in a long time. And the best part is, their rapport together develops gradually and naturally as friends before the romance has even gotten started. We’ve still got a ways to go but I think this is going one of those love stories where both of them fell in love with each other before even realizing it (and of course, it’s obvious to everyone but them). Aside from the OTP, one of the best parts of the drama is the focus on friendship between all of the characters. All of the interactions between the characters are so realistic and relatable, which happens less than I like in dramaland. Their growth as characters is marked by their experiences in the drama and no one is a villain, but everyone is human. The pacing is also wonderful and there is no drop in quality (yet, knock on wood). The episodes also air only once a week so there’s a low watching commitment. What are you waiting for? Go watch it now!