tv review · Uncategorized

TV Review: Search Party

Image result for search partyTitle: Search Party (Seasons 1-2)

Genre: Comedy, Mystery

Episodes: 20

Created by: Sarah-violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, Michael Showalter

Starring: Alia Shawkat, John Early, John Reynolds, Meredith Hagner, Brandon Michael Hall

Rating: A-

 

A lot of articles have described Search Party as the millennial Nancy Drew and that was pretty much all I needed to hear to start this oddball of a show.

Search Party is the type of dark absurdist comedy that I normally don’t get. The absurd is usually too absurd and the comedy too black for me to really enjoy. But Search Party, Search Party is something special and likewise wholly original from what I normally watch. It features Dory Sief, who at the beginning of the show, sees a missing person flyer of Chantal Witherbottom who went to college with her. Dory has only bumped into her once when she dropped her teddy bear while moving into college. But somehow Dory becomes obsessed with finding her believing Chantal to hold a greater purpose in life for her than running mindless errands for a rich, lonely housewife and coming back home to a loveless relationship with her boyfriend, Drew Gardner. She sets out to find Chantal, stringing along Drew, and her friends Elliot Goss, cliche in his flamboyance and Portia Davenport, ditzy and a little naive.

Search Party is a satire of millennials, of self-obsession, and of the social media that perpetuates this self-obsession. These themes are hidden underneath characters who seem harmless at first but as they are pushed to their limits, (especially in season 2 where they have to keep up with the repercussions of their actions in Season 1), they slowly show their true layers underneath. Although Drew is passive, in Season 2, we see him do whatever it takes to get the job he desires dragging down anyone and everyone he can; he reveals himself to be just as cunning and clever as the other characters. We cheer and clap when these characters are given their due but we also feel a little guiltily sympathetic. Although we know that Dory has an ulterior motive to finding Chantal Witherbottom whom she believes is in danger, we at first think it is either amusing or slightly absurd but we go along with it because what’s the harm? We laugh at the dry humor and the character’s harmless attempts at trying to find Chantal but it quickly devolves into something more sinister.

Our four main characters are incredibly unlikeable. They are entitled, selfish, and unapologetic and unaware of both.  When Dory announces Chantal’s death to her group of friends, Elliot immediately dismisses it but then pulls out his phone to tweet about his sorrow at her disappearance. It is a testament to this show that the moment is disturbing but also incredibly funny and oddly enough, relatable.

The show never demands us to like them as so many shows with despicable characters do.  But instead the show lays the onion on the table, and slowly peels back the layers one by one until the core character is revealed. You don’t have to sympathize with them and yet they are so oddly relatable without someone demanding that they be relatable to us. In fact, tragic backstories are never revealed so there’s not an automatic stake for sympathy. Their few moments of vulnerability are less touching than desperate and frustrating. The ending of Season 1 was incredibly satisfying, surprising, and most importantly, original from so many murder mystery plot twists.Search (1)

Even though this show is definitely a character study, the mystery is just as compelling and gripping especially in Season 2. In both seasons, the progression of the mystery serves to amplify who the characters already are. What will happen if desperate Dory does not find the answer she is looking for in finding Chantal? What will happen when the carpet of privilege and wealth is swept under Elliot Goss’s feet? I think Season 2 is actually better than Season 1 because the stakes are higher. Plot twist after plot twist is revealed. The characters do crazier things because the stakes are higher but their actions are so true to their characters. What’s also compelling is that the side characters including Julian, Dory’s ex-boyfriend who is very blunt, Chantal, ditzy and spoiled, and most notably, Dory’s and Drew’s next door neighbor, April who i certifiably crazy and unpredictable. It is great that they become so fleshed out as they inadvertently become more and more embroiled in Dory’s affairs.

Search Party does not fit the mold of the usual TV show I watch but it is incredibly brilliant in its portrayal of its characters combined with a sharp script and breakneck pacing, it is something I’m wholly glad I gave a chance.

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Miscellaneous · Uncategorized

New Year, Really New Me?

2017 was the year I finally realized how much insecurity I’ve always struggled with. I always knew they were there but I always thought they were a part of me in so much as that weird birthmark that you’ve always had on your skin. Ironically, I berated myself for even having these insecurities which was the exact opposite of what I should be doing. I think I had enough of these inner demons this year and I wanted to quiet them. I started trying to love and forgive myself more and truly learning from my mistakes. I tried to remember that everywhere I go, I deserved to be there and if I find myself shrinking within myself, I ask myself why? and remembering that the insecurities I have are so small in the long run, I might as well show my authentic self. I think that’s what I wanted most, to be able to be happy and comfortable in who I am. I make a lot of mistakes but I accept them and ask myself what can be done better and move on. I  even had moments this year when I realized old me would have never done something like that. Usually when I did that last year, I would have had way more self loathing. I am proud of myself for how far I’ve come in 2017. There is still so much more left to do but I’ve come miles last year. Looking back on where I was at the beginning of the year and looking now at where I am, I never thought, for a second, that this is where life would take me but I’m so grateful for it. Of course, a good year cannot happen without the help of my amazing friends and, for the first time ever, an amazing boyfriend(I know y’all are reading this). Having a job really proved that I could work through adversity and that I am capable. I should trust myself more. I can’t be anything else other than who I am so why not embrace it? This year, I’ve also come to realize how important my health is. I had wisdom teeth surgery this year and I had post surgery infections and a lot of side effects after I took antibiotics and it just showed me how much of my health I’ve been taking for granted so I want to make my health more seriously. 2017 was definitely a growing up year but it was the best year I’ve had in so long. The big things made me happen but so did the small things. It was if someone was looking out for me last year. I hope the good streak continues to last in 2018. Cheers to a new year and new adventures! =)

Personal Resolutions

  • Find more creative and self improvement outlets.
    • My creative outlets have always been Youtube and my blog but I want to find more diversity of creative outlets like podcasts, movies, games, makeup, fashion, and graphic design. These are places where I have always found passion but this year I want to hone in on more of my creative side with them and basically broaden my creative horizons.
  • Eat more vegetables and exercise 2x a week.
    • I realize when I’m making a health goal I have to start small, otherwise I will not go through with it so I think this goal is pretty feasible.
  • Journal at least once a week.
    • The consequence of being busier than ever is that I don’t get as much time to self reflect which is something that is foreign to me. I think telling myself to journal at least once a week will help me center myself more and create a space for myself.
  • Focus on what I can do in the present.
    • Too often, I focus on what I do not have and what other fun things people are doing. I realize there are certain things about my circumstances that I can’t change right now and I hope I can channel that restlessness into productivity and doing what I can do instead of self pity.

Reading Resolutions

  • Read for at least 20 uninterrupted minutes a day.
    • I realize that whenever I read now, I had to keep checking my phone every 5 minutes and even that took away from my reading experience so I hope that in 2018, I can read for at least that allotted time without distractions.
  • Read 40 books
    • I’ve literally cut my end goal by half so I don’t put as much stress on myself this year.
  • Continue to read short story collections/essay collections.
    • I had a goal every year before this to read a diversity of formats and so far it has worked out very well. I think after this I can stop doing this and hope that I can just read diversely on my own without having to set a goal for it.

Blogging Resolutions

  • Post at least 2x a month.
    • There are several reasons for this. This year, I’ve found that my blog posts have been too sporadic and I realize that I’ve been sacrificing quality to post up content. The writing itself has probably suffered, my banners and headers have definitely deteriorated and by the end, I hadn’t included them at all. I just want to produce content that I am proud of this year. Not to say that I wasn’t proud of my content this year but it could have been better so let’s say I want to do 4 reviews this month, ideally it’ll force me to write all four but I think realistically it will at least force me to write better about two of the ones I pick.
  • Go back to posting up quarterly “What I’ve Been Watching” posts and “Monthly Favorites”
    • I realized this year that I really miss doing the Monthly Favorites post and I miss having this record of the highlights of the month. Part of the problem for Monthly Favorites was that I didn’t have a good phone to take pictures with but now I do so I have no excuse not to do this post.
    • I also miss keeping track of what I’ve been watching for the past few months. It gave me a chance to analyze the movies that I don’t want to review so I’m going to try and do more of those this year.

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favorites · Uncategorized

Favorite Books/TV Shows of 2017

Sadly, because 2017 was not a great reading year, there weren’t many books that really stuck out to me. I even hesitated making a best of 2017 for books because even the ones I considered my favorites of the year were not the same greatness that my favorites for previous books. But I decided I do want to mention the most memorable of the year. I tried to include a variety of formats that I read. Unlike in previous years, I have not ordered these in any way.

Human Acts by Han Kang

30091914Han Kang is such a daring writer. She experiments with format and writing style and whether or not it is effective is often besides the point. What I feel she always tries to achieve though is capturing the rawest emotion of her characters. I think it works very well here. It is stylistically quite different than her previous work, The Vegetarian. Human Acts is definitely more like one long metaphor but it completely works as she portrays the brutality of the 1980’s rights as an extension of death and life.

 

 

I have a few short forms I would like to celebrate.

  • A Series of Steaks by by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Short story) – A clever scifi story about 3D printing and female friendship.
  • Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station by Caroline M. Yoachim (Short story)- A throwback to Choose Your Own Adventures stories. It, at once, celebrates the format but also pokes fun at it.
  • Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Agozi Adichie (novella) – nothing in this novella is particularly new but the way Adichie crafts her writing about feminism makes you feel as if this should be common sense and her arguments are
  • The Death of a Moth by Virginia Woolf (Essay) – I need to read virginia woolf’s other works asap after reading this. This short story is literally about the narrator watching a moth die but the spectrum of feelings you get while reading it is  all encompassing.

We were Feminists Once from Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl: the buying and selling of a 25898263political movement by Andi Zeisler

I’ve read a lot of feminist rhetoric and it’s surprising to find a recent one that I learn so much from. This book ties modern feminism and how it has affected capitalism. This book has been so eye-opening for me and I see how feminism in the modern age can be manipulated for less than wholesome motives.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

35247769You know I like this book because I’ve read it twice..in 1 year. It’s hard to explain why exactly this book and this series is so special to me. On the surface, it wouldn’t seem so, after all it is just a romantic contemporary about a high school girl and her journey through high school and romantic entanglements. But it is just so sincerely heartwarming and fun to read. I love Lara Jean’s little family, Peter, and of course, all the cookies Lara Jean baked.

Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios29102896

I did not expect to love this book as much as I did. I have no qualms about coining this book as the best YA book discussing the progression of a toxic relationship. It is subtle and powerful and just has an all around depth to it. It paints everything in greys instead of blacks and whites and it’s such an honest and realistic portrayal of all different types of toxic relationships.

Image result for the language of thornsThe Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

I’m starting to like Leigh Bardugo more and more as a writer. My favorite thing about this collection is how it upends fairy tale traditions and canon. By reversing these traditions, Bardugo really shows the reader how much we have relied on traditional tropes to write our fairy tales and how when you look at these tropes in the light, it might cause you to look at these characters differently than you always have. It is honestly worth a hard copy just because the illustrations inside are so beautiful!

TV Shows

I had much better luck in finding great shows this year. These are my top 5 definitive TV shows of 2017 and I would rewatch all of these in a heartbeat. I thought it would be a little repetitive if I included Superstore because I have a feeling that that show will be here for a while and it will probably on every single one of my favorite TV show lists. But other than that, here are my favorite shows of 2017. These are in order from least favorite to favorite show of 2017

Insecure, Season 2

Comedy|8 episodes|HBO

Image result for Insecure season 2I watch Insecure like I listen to friends gossip. It is so deliciously juicy and enticing in the way that the world of dating can be.  But the great thing about this show is that its so clever about portraying how the different men in Issa’s and Molly’s life reveal who they really are. But it’s not just about that. It’s about their struggles in the workplace and of course, the struggle to find who or what they truly want. Even better is that in the end this show is about Issa’s and Molly’s enduring friendship. It is a completely bingeworthy show.

 

Master of None, Season 2

Comedy|10 episodes|Netflix

Image result for master of none season 2

I am so, so impressed with this show above all else to experiment with different storytelling formats. One episode will be an hour long while another will be half an hour. One episode is partly told in subtitles with the main characters not even being present in the episode. One is told like an old Italian movie. There are long pauses without dialogue. This show feels like a meandering but it manages to stay cohesive. It is absolutely brilliant in its discussion of modern dating, workplace harassment, and diversity. I’ve seen and read a lot of media that covers the coming of age of high school to college to post grad people but Master of None shows that a coming of age for the late 20s-30s group can be done so well.

Search Party Seasons 1&2

Dark comedy|20 episodes|TBS

Image result for search partyI love Search Party and it is one of the most unique shows I’ve seen in a long time. Its young 20something characters are very difficult to like and even sympathize but they are great fodders for discussing self entitlement and self obsession as well as the struggle that a lot of 20some year olds struggle with now: the struggle for purpose and meaning in their lives. Don’t take this to mean that this show is a continual philosophical story but these themes are the foundation for a darkly funny and satirical tale. This show is weird. It combines a mystery featuring amateur detectives with a great look at characters that we think we know until they sweep the rug from under our feet to reveal who they truly are. My review for this is coming soon but this is truly a unique, weird little show that deserves so much more hype.

Anne with an E

Drama|7 episodes|Netflix

This was honestly a wonderful gem of a show and I’m so happy it has been renewed for aRelated image second season. This is just one of the few book to TV show adaptations that have so accurately casted the right actors and actresses for their respective characters. I also think it is one of the few book to movie TV adaptations that have stayed so true to the book’s core themes while still adding its own individuality to the show.  The addition of the stable boy, Jerry, was such a delight considering how much humor he brings to the show. This show is somber, melancholic, and aesthetically beautiful but it is full of hope and lightheartedness just like its main character.

 

Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo

Korean drama|16 episodes| MBC

My number one favorite show of the year is Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo. I’m actually Image result for weightlifting fairy kim bok-jooalready thinking of rewatching this next month. It is a beautiful, beautiful drama full of hope and love. I completely adore the lighthearted and vibrant tone of the show. Our main character, Bok Joo, is a charismatic and blunt weightlifter who goes to a college for athletes. She is always a character that you root for and throughout the show you are cheering for her success and the ambitions she has despite the many comedic and cringeworthy situations she finds herself in. Cushioned around this character are two lovely best friends, a well meaning father, some endearing coaches, and a charming and swoonworthy love interest. I especially like this drama for how it upends some traditional korean drama tropes and understands that at its heart, it is a story of a girl who dreams of being the best weightlifter instead of a story of a girl who has a romance. It had me smiling, laughing, and crying the entire way through.

Have a wonderful New Year’s and here’s hoping that 2018 will be full of even better books and TV shows!

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Misc

2017 Reading Statistics and Recap

2017 is coming to an end! This means a spur of the mandatory end of the year posts that will be coming up on this blog. This will be third year posting my reading statistics for the year. I did one in 2015 and one last year for 2016. It was really interesting comparing how different my reading year compared to the last two years.

Books Read: 59 (excluding essays I’ve read)

This is actually terrible considering I read 126 books not including short stories in 2015 and 110 books/other formats in 2016. I literally read about half of what I did last year.

This is approximately 20,588 pages with the average being 326 pages a book.

9 rereads!! (3 rereads last year)

This was a big improvement so yay!

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I read way more books written by female authors this year. I never know what to make of this statistic. I do tend to gravitate towards books written by female authors through no intentional reasoning. This year, a lot of my rereads were also from female authors like JK Rowling and Jenny Han so that contributed to this bias. I did not read any books coauthored by both a male and female author this year nor did I read a book that had a gender identity other than male or female.

Once gain, no surprise. I think this was an improvement from last year though and I’m starting to realize more and more that nonfiction is a category that I really like to read. The problem is being in the right mood for it.

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It was a realistic contemporary type of year. I think this probably marks the first year in a while, if ever, that I have read more contemporary books than fantasy or science fiction. I definitely fell off the bandwagon with fantasy this year mostly because I just could not click with any fantasy books I tried to read. I was so tired of the old fantasy tropes, bland worldbuilding, and sexist tendencies that I just discontinued fantasy altogether. It also did not help that fantasies tend to be pretty long and I wanted books that I could finish more quickly. You can actually the gradual buildup over the years of my preference for contemporary over other genres. I think this preference relies heavily on what is happening in my own life. I try to find books that emulate my own life as a source of learning but also comfort. Also, YA romantic contemporaries are just really fun to read when you’re stressed out and just want to turn your brain off. I’m quite sad that my literary fiction and classics repertoire was severely lacking this year. I definitely was less exposed to creative and nuanced writing as a result. My poetry game stepped up though which was one of my goals for 2017 but I think after this year, it’ll start to deteriorate. Poetry will just never be my thing.

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I’m so happy I read more nonfiction than I did last year. I’m hoping to get that number to at least 20 percent every year. I always learn a lot about subjects I don’t know about or I gain more depth in the subjects I’m already knowledgeable about when I’m reading nonfiction so I like to read a variety.

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I know this is a very visually frustrating chart but it accurately summarizes how my ratings went this year. I’m as harsh as ever on my ratings with most of the books I read being 3 stars or below. There are handful of 3.5 stars and slightly more 4 star reads. 4 star reads are considered very good in my opinion. There’s a lone 4.5 star read like last year. And of course, in order for it to be a 5 star read, it basically has to be my next favorite book. I did not have any of those this year unfortunately.

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I read a lot more YA this year than last year and that’s mostly because I found YA books so much easier to read and sink into in the second half of the year. I did end up reading more adult books and that’s perfectly fine. I, in fact, prefer it to be that way. I think the amount of NA and middle grade books has remained the same. I would like to read more middle grade especially fantasy ones but the NA count is perfectly fine the way it is.

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I’m a little disappointed in this one just because I made it my goal this year to read more poetry, short stories, and novellas. I did broaden my short story collection reading slightly more although it only scratched the surface. Of course, novels are always going to be the most. I definitely cut down on the graphic novels I read this year. I was not up to date in the world of graphic novels. I think this was because the form did not interest me this year and there weren’t any particular ones I wanted desperately to read. I do wish I had taken the time to record all the essays I read this year, my favorite of which is “The Death of the Moth” by Virginia Woolf; however, I am happy that I dipped more into reading essays this year.

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I’m honestly not sure if I’m going to include this category in my statistics report next year because there are so many factors that go into this stat. First of all, I counted the ethnicity of the author but that was difficult because do I count their ethnicity or their nationality or both. Do I count the ethnicities of the characters? If so, all the characters? Just the main two characters? It’s just very hard to quantify. I wanted to keep track of this stat because I wanted to read as diversely as possible. This chart also does not take into account diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity, translations, mental health, and disabilities. Maybe next year, I’ll make a column for own voices books? I don’t know, I need help for this one.

Extra Statistics

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I think my average # of pages read this year was lower than last year. I tended to read books around the 250-400 page mark which is actually the perfect # of pages that I can read in 1-2 days. I just did not have the patience for long books this year. It is what it is but I rather not make it a habit. I don’t like the idea of not reading long books just because they are long. I think I just liked the feeling of accomplishment of finishing a book rather than taking the time to read a long book if that makes sense.

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I think my mentality towards the second half of the year in terms of reading was that I felt guilty about not reading as much one month and then I strove to read more the next month. But of course, there was a visible difference in how much I read from March onwards. There are several factors at play here. For one, I just was not enjoying anything I was reading this year (I’m not sure why). Two, I got a full time job and it’s actually really hard to read when you do have that. And third, I had more moments where I felt like watching TV and youtube instead of reading. The problem is I always want to read. I think the biggest thing was not finding anything I was enjoying because the ones I did enjoy I would finish in a day. I got so used to reading at least 5+ books a month that this year has been totally jarring in that sense.

 

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This was actually really surprising because I thought I had DNFed more books which makes me think that I did not record every book I DNFed. In reality, that “yes” column will never be 0 because I will always want to try books that are presumable radically different than what I usually read. Inevitably, some of those will not be to my taste but I do like trying them out. I think the goal is to not fall into the habit of picking up books I know I will not like especially when I give in to the hype train.

Did I meet my goals? (2017 Reading Resolutions post)

Read 70 books. Umm….nope. I’m laughing at what I wrote on the resolutions post.

 

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2016 me clearly did not anticipate what 2017 had in store for her..

Read more types of literature such as essay and short story collections. Check…to an extent but still, I made progress with this goal.

Finding more books on my own instead of taking recommendations on booktube. Check. A lot of my recommendations have been coming from Goodreads. I’ve come to accept, however, that I will always get recommendations from booktube. Isn’t that one of the purposes of Booktube after all?

Read more underrated books. No…most of the books I’ve read have had more than 3000 ratings. I don’t think I’m that sad about this to be honest.

Read as diversely as possible (in format, in content, in perspective). Check..but not as much as I thought I would.

Looking back at how well (badly) I did in terms of meeting my reading goals this year, I’m going to be making severe changes to my 2018 reading goals.

And that is a wrap on my 2017 reading year! I think this is the first year I’ve so severely overestimated how much I could read. In fact, for a large portion of the year, I did not feel like reading opting to watch youtube or watch TV instead. It is what it is but I am as motivated as ever to read. I just need to find a better balance of goals knowing how my daily life is now.

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movie reviews · tv review · Uncategorized

Reviews: A TV Show, A Movie, A Drama

For Beginners

Stranger Things season 2 was an inevitable thing considering the enormous popularity of the first season. As a whole, I think it succeeds but I have a few qualms. First of all, my feelings about the side characters are two fold. On the one hand, I struggle to see how they stand on their own throughout the season; I even question some of their significance such as Maxine’s stepbrother who is a dick for basically no other reason than being a dick. With that said, however, some of the success of Stranger Things is the fact that it juggles so many characters but gives each one their moment in the spotlight. It takes a while for some of the characters to show their true deal and sometimes I feel the side characters are just used to create tension in the plot like Bob.

Image result for stranger things season 2 gif

As conflicted as I feel about the side characters, I do like that the show continued to expand our core cast of characters with the exception of Will and Joyce. I wish Will hadn’t spent the entire season unconscious or confused or seeing visions. I think there wasn’t enough time for him to really develop as a character what with him being entirely missing in S1 and unconscious for much of S2. I also wish Joyce didn’t spend all season screaming. However, I feel as though the dynamics of the group are ever evolving in a good way. They are each trying to find their own identity outside of the group and because of that they spend a significant amount of time away from each other. Dustin discovers a new creature that he wants to keep despite the group’s skepticism. Mike is still trying to get Eleven back. Lucas is grappling with his feelings for Maxine. I’m very pleased with Eleven’s story arc as well even though the storyline with finding her mom was a little tedious. She finally figures out what her powers mean to her and how she wants to use them.

I have to say I was so very happy about what happened between Nancy and Jonathan, my OTP of this show. I like that Nancy really got to shine on her own. It was somewhat marred by the fact that Steve did not get any closure from this but I’ll take it and hope he gets some more development next season. And let me just say, I did not know I needed Steve as an unwilling babysitter till now. I completely love Steve as a character this season. He is an incredibly funny character and he plays it just right.

Image result for steve harrington season 2 gif

The cliffhanger was unsatisfying to me because I thought the entire season was about just this thing (that I won’t spoil). The plot continued to be compelling and it definitely got pretty gruesome at parts for a family show but I’m all for it. But side note, what is up with all the cliche one-liners? B+

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Lady Bird is only one of a slew of coming of age movies that I’ve had the pleasure to watch in the past couple of years. It’s about a girl named Christine, or as she dubs herself, “Lady Bird”, in her final year of high school. I have to say it’s one of the most stylistically unique. It moves in vignettes and mere snapshots of Lady Bird’s life with no sense of beginning, middle, or even end. It just feels like you’re watching little video clips spliced together as she tries to figure out to get out of California and get into college to a school on the East Coast. She is misunderstood but that misunderstanding is as much a result of her own perception of herself as those of the perceived perceptions of her from the people around her such as her father, her brother, her friends, her love interests, and especially her mom. A hodgepodge of juxtapositions herself, she is romantic but crass, she is delusional but also very grounded in reality, she is an outcast but wants to fit in.

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She has a frustrating relationship with her mom and I like that they spend an equal amount of time focusing on all her relationships, romantic, familial, and friends.

No scene really begins with a clear purpose; no scene ends with a clear resolution. It could just be a clip of her and her mom shopping at the mall and then cutting to a scene of her at school. It is beautifully acted, often feeling more improv than scripted which is only a testament to the natural dialogue. Everything feels just well balanced. A lovely coming of age movie. A

For Beginners (2)

It is rare for me for me to have completed a kdrama and give it a B. Usually, I know it’s a B from the first few episodes and just quit it. You can see from my previous reviews of Descendants of the Sun, Age of Youth, Signal, and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo that I gave all of them A’s and if I didn’t, such as Tomorrow with You, I have already stopped watching by the 3rd episode. Despite the cons of the drama, I loved the poignancy of this drama and what it has to say about the institution of marriage. Ji Ho is a quiet, mousy 30 year old who wants to make it as a writer. She desperately needs a room while she is looking for jobs after quitting her first one as an assistant writer. She finds a room with Se Hee who just wants a roommate who will recycle and look after his cat and pay the rent so he can pay back his debts. They don’t ask for much from life, just a place to stay, food, and the ability to watch soccer games in their spare time.

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They fall in love, obviously, as one can only expect in a kdrama. This will not be the first time there is a marriage contract based korean drama nor will it be the last. It is, however, unique in many ways. Even though Ji Ho and Se Hee are the main characters, they are not exactly the type of main characters I usually gravitate towards and they are not charismatic enough to hold the storyline together. It’s a good thing then that the show focuses also on Ji Ho’s two best friends, Ho Rang and Soo Ji and interesting opposite studies on their own. Ho Rang goal in life is to get married, have kids, and be a good housewife. Soo Ji works at a big male-dominated company and dreams of becoming a CEO of her own company. The drama directly explores gender dynamics in a relationship such as proposals, sexual harassment in the workplace, and patriarchy in the family head on. The very subjects that Korean dramas never, ever, ever explore.

It’s even better that the drama does not take any sides on these issues but instead portrays the characters to the best of its ability and allows viewers to make their own opinion. It does not take Ho Rang’s side or Soo Ji’s side or even Ji Ho’s side although it could be said that it supports all these characters equally in their endeavors. On top of that, I will always support a drama that supports their female friendships. It asks us if she can live her life even if she doesn’t become her life-long career of being a writer. It tell us how complicated but how simple it is to love someone. And most importantly, it asks these characters what it means to live a meaningful life to them.

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The main reason for my B rating are the last few episodes. I think it’s a shame that the previous explored these issues so deeply and carefully that the rushed last episodes felt like a bow slapped onto an almost finished present. I was especially dissatisfied with Ho Rang’s ending. I think what hurt the drama was that the writers thought, as with all kdramas, that there had to be an HEA when it would have been perfectly fine and even more emotionally enriching to have a more ambiguous ending. However, its poignant moments and its thoughtful dialogue on what it means to live a meaningful life make this worth watching. B

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Misc · Miscellaneous · Quote to Self · Uncategorized

Quote to Self #4: On Self Esteem

I’ve recently become fond of the essay format and read an especially well written one, “On Self Respect” by Joan Didion and it inspired a musing of sorts:

I try not to talk about my self esteem. Mostly because I think it’s obvious on me. It hangs there like an undeniably obnoxious sweater. People can see it. As recently as a year ago, when they joked with me, they must have seen the quick hurt on my face and quickly tried to assuage my fears and I think to myself, is it that obvious? I wilted under the slightest criticism. Everything I did was a test of my competence and any failure fed this monster of self doubt. I stuttered over words and had no conviction in what I said even if I wholeheartedly believed what I was saying. I wasn’t afraid to speak, but I was afraid to speak. And trying to understand my sense of self felt like grasping at straws.

Self esteem has always been a tedious and insidious thing for me. I have never known a time when I didn’t have low self esteem until maybe 3 years ago when I saw an inkling of who I could be without that crushing self hate and doubt. It started slowly, first believing that my opinions were worthy of being voiced. Of course, there are still many days when I don’t want to develop it, when I feel almost safe in my self pity and berating of myself. And there are just days when the criticisms of past and present threaten to overwhelm me. And for years, I didn’t know that the little criticisms that always pervaded my brain had a subtle but invisible effect on me so I constantly felt this heavy burden on me that I didn’t know was even there.  That every time I told myself I couldn’t do it or every time I mentally degraded myself for not doing it as well as I thought I should have done it, I was slowly but surely eating myself away. But I thought I couldn’t do it because I was not smart enough or just not enough. 

That enoughness is what I kept pursuing. This feeling of being good enough. Whatever that meant and I was sure when I found it I would know what it meant. But foolishly, I kept trudging through trying desperately to find this imaginary line. During this quest to find, when I fell, I fell hard and told myself I deserved to fall. And when I was happy, I didn’t think i deserved this happiness, because I don’t know, it was just because I was me and that was that. And being me just was not good enough. Not interesting enough. Not funny enough. Not enough of anything.  Maybe if I tried to be more social, I can be funnier. Maybe if I tried this, I could be less awkward. Maybe if I studied harder, I would be less stupid. And without realizing I started to associate my self esteem with what I did instead of who I was. When I didn’t perform as well on an ochem test as my peers, I grew bitter and angry. When I couldn’t think of a snappy comeback to a funny joke, I thought about it for days. When I was at a loss for words or when I failed to think of something my friends had but I hadn’t, I angrily thought I was stupid. I felt like a fake person who was “trying to cross a border with borrowed credentials”. And then despairingly, I thought maybe there would always be a disconnect between who I am and who I wanted to be.

If we do not respect ourselves…we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out–since our self image is untenable–their false notion of us.

I don’t know what specifically changed this year but I realized how intense the problem was but I was tired of it just inching forward. I wanted something more drastic to change. When before I sought that feeling of being enough, now I was more desperate to find an inner peace within myself.

Of course, when I am in doubt about anything or need any kind of help, I always consult the internet first. I read dozens of essays, books, and articles on self esteem in the hopes that I would find an answer.

And I think I found part of the answer in the pages of the internet and started to apply it. I started consistently journaling about the things I liked about myself no matter how corny I felt. I started repeating daily affirmations to myself everyday. I started to push myself to speak as honestly and as clearly as I could. I started thinking about other people and tried to give back more than being self absorbed all the time. I started to believe in the best outcomes instead of the worst. But there are two important things about building self esteem that I’ve learned are the most important. The first is to forgive yourself.

It’s a foreign concept–forgiveness. It demanded that I gave myself the time and space to grow and learn without crushing myself. But it makes the world. Instead now when I make a mistake or did something I didn’t really like, I forgave myself, told myself how I could improve and moved on. There’s a lot of comfort knowing that whatever I can’t change about my situation, each day starts clean and making improvements has no start or stop timeline.

The second factor was knowing that there is no give or take in this universe. Just because I had one good day does not mean the day after will be bad or maybe it will be. And just because an amazingly wonderful thing happened to me does not mean I have to sacrifice something to maintain that gift. Believing this helped me believe in the best possible outcomes for myself. To start focusing on what can happen rather than what cannot. And of course with that came the conviction that I deserved this happiness.

You never know how important self esteem is until you have it. As Joan Didion so perfectly describes in her essay, “to have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth…is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love, and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference”.

I might have more moments of self despair and feeling as though I lack so much than is warranted from an average person. In fact, I had that moment today as a friend was delivering delicious, custard and strawberry filled croissants to me. I spent an inordinate amount of time annoyed at myself for not saying things I should have. The old me would have spent several more inordinate days thinking about what I should have done. The newish me spent a few, agonizing minutes.  But as I finish this post, I realize I am who I am and even so, tomorrow, there is always time for improvement. I got this.

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The source of my inspiration and all the quotes in this post (including the header): Joan Didion’s, “On Self-Respect“. Parts of it is racist and slightly off putting but her musings on self esteem resonated a lot with me.

 

Uncategorized · wrap up

September/October 2017 Wrap Up

The way things are going I don’t think I’m going to make my Goodreads challenge which is actually sort of a foreign concept to me. I’ve read 48 books so far this year and am 10 books behind schedule if I want to reach my goal of 70 for 2017. It’s fine with me since I got to do a lot of rereading these past two months.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

17347383POA is that turning point in young Harry’s life when he is starting to grow up and realizing more about the circumstances of his birth and seeing that people are not always what they seem. I think that is one of the sure signs of growing up when you start to see the gray areas in morality. HP 3 is not my favorite book but I do think it has the best mystery to it. I still think the mystery and machinations surrounding Sirius Black were so well thought out. I’m not surprised JK Rowling went on to write crime novels because her mysteries are excellent. And to me, they are excellent because she creates the rules within this magical world and then uses those careful rules she created and breaks them in clever and unexpected ways. This is definitely the middle book between the lightness f the last two books and the dark. And side note, who doesn’t love the Marauder’s Map and the Time Turner?

Solanin by Asano Inio

Solanin is a millennial’s book. It is about a girl named Meiko who

3430763works a desk job and lives with her depressed boyfriend, Naruo who writes the sports column for a newspaper. One day she quits her desk job spending the next year figuring out what she really wants to do. Now this book is one long homage to existential crisis that every 20 some year old experiences. The quotes are melancholy with a slight tinge of the dramatic, it feels more like melting pot of poignant and Tumblr-y ideas than a story about characters. It feels like a pointless ramble rather than a quiet coming of age story. I never got to know the secondary characters well enough for me to truly understand them as anything other than props for the main characters and the main characters I didn’t know well enough to really attach to.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee

I’ve found myself more and more critical of the YA category and nothing in this category 29283884really feels satisfying these days, although maybe I should give these books more than a couple of pages.  But I really enjoyed the Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue almost from the get go and it succeeds by finding the perfect tone of a historical comedy. The tone imbues our hedonistic and crass main character, Henry Montague, and the secondary foils that accompany him on his journey. It is so fun but Lee doesn’t just skim over the historical context. The thing I admire the most about a book is its dedication to consistent characters. I love Henry’s relationship with Percy, and the flashbacks to their past were some of the most heartwarming moments. Henry struggles to find who he is and face the demons of inadequacy he has always ran away from. He is on a whirlwind tour of Europe but he realizes when he comes home he must face his future of running the estate and figuring out how he’s going to manage his father’s expectations when they might be the opposite of what he wants. I also really liked Felicity’s character. Her sensibility and practicality were the perfect foils to Percy and Henry (although it seems like sensible and practical are practically the staples of too many female characters these days). I really appreciated the diverse range of social commentary Lee inputted in this. She gave these issues of racism, sexism, and disability their due with grace and subtle nuance. The plot is a whirlwind of 18th century European history and antique sites, debauchery, and hijinks.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

I’ve sincerely forgotten how depressing this book is and slightly repetitive. I felt it sort of lagged somewhere in the middle. It’s interesting to see how much sketchiness is allowed17347381 to happen at Hogwarts which I suppose is part of its charm. Also, rereading this as 23 year old, I have to laugh at how much more I understand the dynamics of Harry and Cho’s first date at Hogsmeade. The things Harry does is kind of cringeworthy. It’s so great. I will forever and always love the Room of Requirement and the DA. I think I liked the concept of resistance and taking action in the face of Umbridge and a tumultuous political environment. It’s interesting how well it holds up with time. The ending of this book always makes me shed some tears. I think it’s the fact that I see Dumbledore, this previously infallible person, actually being vulnerable because of his capacity to love. This trait establishes itself as his biggest strength but also his biggest weakness. I also found it quite funny what characters the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers are with really the only relatively normal one being Lupin. But the other ones are kind of wack jobs and it’s so interesting how even if they are kind of unrealistic, they are so completely relatable as extensions of people you might now.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

If there is one flaw these books have, in my opinion, it is the romances. They have never 17347380and will never make sense to me. I’ve never shipped Ron and Hermione nor Harry and Ginny. I have, however, developed a sudden liking towards Hermione and Draco, a paring that actually sounds so perfect now that I think about it. It includes two of my favorite romantic tropes: opposites attract and hate to love. But whatever, my favorite part of HBP is learning about Voldemort’s past and this clever concept of Horcruxes. Voldemort definitely has an old school villain feel to him. I feel if he were a character written in the present, people would criticize his character for being too unambiguous and being evil for the sake of being evil but it’s a universal story simply because of this tale of good vs evil so it doesn’t bother me. I feel that if someone made Horcruxes irl though, he/she would be very difficult to defeat just based on this sheer amount of objects you can use. Ron is a little insufferable in this one and again, the amount of times that Harry is accidentally right is kind of astounding. The ending was very disheartening when I first read it and still is esp when you realize that this book has descended right into the darkness.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

Every time I reread HP 7, I gain more and more appreciation for it. When I first read it, IImage result for harry potter and the deathly hallows new book cover was kind of frustrated with how much Dumbledore was in it. And I thought there would be something more to it but I’ve grown to really like the insight into Dumbledore’s past. It casts a lot of doubt into Harry’s blind following of Dumbledore and makes this idea of finding Horcruxes a seemingly impossible quest. Why didn’t Dumbledore tell him more about the Horcruxes? Who even was he? But if we don’t listen to Dumbledore, how do we defeat Voldemort? It must have been hard to write a satisfying ending to one of the greatest book series of all time and even harder to write an ending that feels satisfying after we’ve spend so long trying to figure out how to defeat the greatest dark wizard of all time. Needless to say though, I was satisfied and am still satisfied at the way things turned out. It felt epic and final without feeling convenient or rushed. I have mixed feelings about the epilogue though.

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

9630403Level Up is a graphic memoir about a guy who loves to play games and throughout the memoir battles whether to assuage his father’s wishes or follow his own dreams. This is a very standard follow your parents’ expectations for you or follow your own goals and it neither offers a poignant resolution nor a different take on the subject. It was, therefore, ultimately forgettable. I can’t really even recommend it to gamers because the references are barely there.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

I’ve noticed with the concept of feminism in YA and 33163378mainstream media, feminism is a game of “catch the bad guy and everyone lives happily ever after”. In Moxie, Vivian is sick of her small town school’s sexist codes and the sexist football players and the sexist principal. While it is admirable and inspirational that she start taking action to end the ingrained sexism in her school I found that that the feminism ended up being more of the feel good type as the girls got the football players and the principal evicted from the school. And while it does not ignore the blood, sweat, and tears that go into protesting and trying to change people’s perspectives, the book ignores the fact that these tools are not just to evict sexist pigs and have a feel good victory. The problem with this is that it puts the sole blame of societal sexism on a few bad apples while ignoring the injustice of the system that created these bad apples and many more to come. It’s about making lasting changes. What would have been more effective in my opinion is making changes to the school’s dress code or having these people change their minds about feminism. The romance was so cheesy and sort of sickeningly sweet and eye roll worthy really. This is a nice introduction for younger readers about modern sexist microaggressions but for veterans I suggest a hard pass.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

34076952Oh man, Leigh Bardugo continues to impress me more and more since her lackluster Shadow of Bone trilogy. You don’t have to read the Shadow and Bone trilogy to fully enjoy this one but I think you just might miss a few Easter eggs. Essentially, The Language of Thorns is a collection of short fairy tales set in the Grisha world. Bardugo effortlessly subverts our perceptions of the way fairy tales are told to us and the stereotypes and trappings of the fairy tale canon. I really like the way she handles the retellings of the fairy tales in fresh but vivid ways. My favorite one is the first one which challenges the roles that princesses, kings, queens, and monsters are relegated to and upends them. The illustration alongside these are also beautiful so the hardcover would be so worth buying.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong27746288

This is a quiet literary novel about a woman going back to live with her mom and dad. Her fiance has just left her and her dad has Alzheimer’s. This is altogether about the absurdity of life. It is humorous in a dry but touching way. It follows a diary format as she comes to terms with how best to help her father. A lot is revealed about the secondary characters for such a short book like her father’s infidelity, her mother’s guilt, and her brother’s unwillingness to give in. It’s strikes more touching than anything illuminating about the Alzheimer’s or the people with Alzheimer’s. I felt it didn’t go quite far enough with the portrayal of Alzheimers but it is a short, quick read for a lazy afternoon.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

17347384Reading the later books and then going back to earlier ones just amplifies the sense of innocence that pervaded the characters. Oh, the days when Malfoy being Slytherin’s keeper was on the top of everyone’s worry list. I particularly liked the whole section of the Polyjuice Potion. What troublemakers they were even in the second year and Gilderoy Lockhart is one of the funniest teachers Dumbledore has ever employed. I’ve also noticed in the later books, when Harry stays with the Weasleys, it gets more and more angsty and depressing compared to his stay here which was full of cute fun including gnome throwing and flying cars.

An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal

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An American Sickness was such an eye opening book on the American healthcare system. Over the past few years, I’ve become extremely jaded about American healthcare and this book felt like justification. It covers topics such as why the pharmaceutical companies make so much money, medical billing, insurance companies, and the hidden fees in hospital billing. It’s quite frustrating the way that making a profit is more desirable nowadays than actually taking care of people. It’s even more sad when you realize how dysfunctional the system is. The book is incredibly digestable but is full of facts and statistics as well as heartbreaking anecdotes. I also like that it includes resources and ways that you can improve the healthcare system and hold it accountable for your health.

I believe my favorites of this batch were definitely The Language of Thorns and An American Sickness aside from my favorites of the Harry Potter series which should come to no one’s surprise. I don’t have any specific plans for the rest of the reading year and will read as it pertains to my mood.

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