Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What do I win?

Bad quality photo of CBS Daytime TCA Panel.
Because I am so self-centered and forgetful, I don't often think about how most people don't get to intern at a television studio where, on occasion, they get to interact with celebrities or see the sets for television shows or witness the behind the scenes aspects of the entertainment industry.

I go to work every day in the same fashion. When I wake up I'm groggy and grumpy. When I get on the road I'm alert and disgruntled. When I arrive at work I'm relaxed and relieved. Then upon leaving I revert back to my "on the road" self. Which makes the moment I get home a return to the state of being relaxed and relieved, only to wake up in the morning and repeat the process all over again.

But the past few days have reminded me what a sore winner I am. I got this impeccable internship that not only looks good on my resume, but has inserted me into situations that, frankly, I would have paid for - nay, I have paid for - in the past.

Like today, for instance, when I went to work and was told by my boss that we were having our Daytime TCA (short for Television Critics Association - I don't know if I mentioned that yesterday, but I should have) panel in Television City, just down the road - okay, 30 minutes in medium traffic down the road - from CBS Studio Center where I work every day.

When I was invited along, I was obviously eager to accept the opportunity, mainly because I have been at this internship for nearly two months and still not traveled south to Television City yet.

So I tagged along with my intern friend from the publicity department and another girl who works there and offered to let me carpool, and we drove down a windy twisty road to our destination.

Even though I've grown up just south of Los Angeles County, I still feel like an outsider anywhere north of Chino Hills. My turf has always been the Orange County area. It's where I've frequented the freeways most often, where I've actually seen the nightlife (there is very little, let me tell you), where I've been to restaurants and shopping centers and movie theaters and the like.

Drop me in the middle of LA County and I'm as knowledgeable as I am in Miami or St. Louis or Saskatchewan. Seriously, I know nothing. Except the venues where I've seen the Jonas Brothers - which I clearly know much about. But I don't want anyone to know that.

Anyway, I digress (par the usual course). The point is my internship, aside from forcing me to learn to drive on my own, has also given me license to explore Los Angeles - something I haven't done despite living just an hour south of it for most of my life.

Once in Television City, we drove into the CBS parking lot and walked into the giant building where everything from The Carol Burnett Show to The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson have been and are currently being (respectively) taped.

We grabbed a bunch of Panera lunches for the CBS Publicity crew and went up to the Price is Right stage. Yeah, you read right. I went to see The Price is Right today.

Well I guess I didn't exactly see the show being taped. But I did get to see a panel featuring Drew Carey, Wayne Brady, Julie Chen, Sharon Osbourne and two daytime soap opera actors who I am too lazy and dumb to remember the names of. And it was pretty stellar.

While I may have expressed my enthusiasm well enough for the TCA press tour event on Sunday, this was almost just as exciting. In the small setting, it felt like I could have been part of the press rather than the corporate team. And for some reason, that role still appeals to me.

I love that my internship has allowed me to see what I could never see as a spectator. Even as a critic - which admittedly is a career path I still plan on pursuing - I might get ushered into the sound stages, but I'd never get the freedom and backstage insight that I do as an intern with CBS.

On the days that I'm working in an office, I forget what luck I have. Then I go to Television City and fist bump Wayne Brady.

And suddenly it's all put back into perspective. At last, I know I have won.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Press tour's got me going crazy

Yesterday was a whirlwind adventure. From panel discussions to photo booths to dealing with "talent" as they are called in the industry, I was all over the place. And to top it all off, I was planning on being home in time for dinner.

Well that didn't work out exactly.

While the day went according to plan for the most part, it was still 100 percent crazy. So with that in mind, I'm going to share it with you piece by piece:

6:00 AM - Wake up as usual to eat breakfast and slap myself in the face just enough times to be sure I won't fall asleep on my commute.

7:30 AM - Leave slightly later than usual to head up to Beverly Hills for the CBS TCA Summer Press Tour.

8:30 AM - Somehow make it to the Beverly Hilton 30 minutes before I'm supposed to. Freak my dad out because I've apparently trained myself to drive too fast.

8:45 AM - When I arrive at the check-in desk, one of my co-workers who is finding my badge stares at me in disbelief because I'm wearing jeans. Apparently I was supposed to wear business attire. No one told me, yet they expected me to know? Urgh.

9:00 AM - Eat a massive breakfast, but overlook the waffle bar until I've already had some food to eat. Then cry a little bit and go into the ballroom for panel discussions of the new CBS shows with fall premieres.

9:30 AM - Presentations finally begin. I am ordered to fetch an extra chair from the other side of the room whilst journalists look at me like I've taken their first children away from them.

10:00 AM - I'm forced to tap on the shoulders of the photographers in the panel sessions to make sure they only do their job in 15 minute increments. I am officially the man and now all of the photographers are scowling/laughing at me.

11:30 AM - It's lunch, thank goodness. I go into the separate ballroom for food and the two main courses are meat-based. I complain in my mind, but then load up on potatoes. This cannot be healthy.

12:00 PM - I take a stroll to the Hair & Make-Up Room with one of the photography publicists. I meet Taylor Handley from the new CBS show Vegas. I say nothing, but stare at him and flashback to my single-digit years watching him in Phantom of the Megaplex on Disney Channel.

1:00 PM - Time for more panel discussions. By this point I'm starting to zone out, but still committed to angering photographers, so I do my job accordingly.

2:15 PM - At last, I am done in the panel discussions. And my reward is free Pinkberry! My colleagues think I'm crazy because I get so excited at the sight of the stuff. They don't understand.

3:00 PM - My day feels like it has barely begun, when I'm assigned the new task of aiding the cast of Partners to their photo press stations, including stops at The Hollywood Reporter and TV Guide.

3:05 PM - I've met the cast of Partners, but the only one who cared to know my name was Michael Urie...who is the most adorable man on the planet.

3:10 PM - I think about whether or not I should ask Michael Urie what his experience was working with Nick Jonas in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway a few months ago. I reason this will make me look like a fangirl. I hold my tongue.

4:30 PM - By now I've sat around in the TV Guide tent where a "DJ" blasts "music" for so long that I can't wait to be assigned a new job.

5:00 PM - But little did I know my next job would be to bring the cast of Vegas to do the exact same thing.

5:10 PM - Taylor Handley goes into the TV Guide tent only to start flirting with the "DJ" who is still playing "music." He tells her he likes her music choices. I am no longer attracted to him.

5:45 PM - I find myself on the red carpet of the Press Tour after party. I stand on the end watching the talent walk by and trying to grab them to take photo booth pictures. Many of them cringe and agree reluctantly.

6:45 PM - By this time I've made it into the party, but I haven't eaten since my free Pinkberry. But I've been assigned to run memory cards between photographers and editors, so I don't even have a moment to chat up that cute guy on that show on The CW over some appetizers.

7:15 PM - Still haven't eaten. Stomach starts growling. Oh hey, there's Matt LeBlanc. I don't care, my stomach hurts.

7:30 PM - When my boss tells me to go find Dennis Quaid for a photo with a CBS Exec, I make a stop at the appetizer table. I grab a plate of noodles and scarf them down, looking very dignified.

8:00 PM - After failing to find Dennis Quaid and then losing track of a photographer and my boss, I finally reunite with them but only to excuse myself to go home. I stop by the Sprinkles Cupcake truck, grab a free taste and run to my car.

Once I'd gotten home out of the nighttime traffic (did I mention this is the first time I've driven on a freeway at night? Scary stuff), I got to reflect a bit more on the wonder that was my day. I may have been out for more than 12 hours, but in that time I got to see everyone from Tyra Banks to Emmy Rossum to David Duchovny to Lisa Kudrow. I got to eat gross amounts of food, then starve myself for the entire evening. I got to see what it's like to be a photographer at a red carpet event and be the authoritative figure that they hate in the panel discussions.

It may have been a crazy day of running from place to place in an inappropriate outfit and with an awkward amount of admiration for many of the actors I saw walking around with equal anxiety, but it was an experience worth having, if only for the all-access pass and the free Pinkberry. These are the kinds of experience I dream of when I'm watching VIPs run around at the concerts I attend, or seeing people walk the red carpet at movie premieres.

Spending so much time as a fan makes an experience like this so utterly invaluable. Even stress can't get the better of me. And I hope I get to do it again.

Press tour in (mediocre) pictures

Today I went to the CBS TCA Summer Press Tour 2012. After around 12 hours of work, I am too tired and too lazy to do a proper blog post. Ordinarily I'd tell you about all the goings-on of the day since for once there is something to tell. But unfortunately there is not an ounce of strength left in my mind or my body to sit here and type out all that happened in the last half a day.

So instead I'm sharing with you some mediocre pictures I took throughout the day. Some are terrible (I haven't taken the plastic off the back of my iPhone yet because I'm an idiot, so the camera/flash is still fuzzy), some are okay, some may surprise you. But the one thing they will all do without a doubt, is keep you entertained despite my waning ability to do so in my lethargic and, let's just face it, boring state.

I hope you enjoy.

This is the Hair & Make-Up Room where I first met Taylor Handley of Vegas (and Phantom of the Megaplex) fame.

Take a look inside the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton where the show panels were held. My photo taking skills are nil, by the way.

This is my seat. And my special plaque. I felt so special.

But not as special as I felt when I devoured my free Pinkberry froyo.

Or when I sat in the TV Guide tent near Brandon Routh (Superman / Todd Ingram from Scott Pilgrim)

And then I saw Sophia Bush (Partners) and Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary) hanging out near each other. Two newcomers on the CBS Fall line-up.

On the red carpet to the CBS Press Tour Party.
And inside the party.

And back outside the party on the red carpet where the press, executive producers, etc. picked up their passes for entry.

And then I creepily creeped as Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc posed for a photo.

And I ate the night away at the appetizer bars before driving home in the dark for the first time.
It was an interesting day, let's just leave it at that for now. While I certainly have more to tell, it's probably something to leave until I'm completely coherent and not ready to close my eyes and shut off all the lights as quickly as possible. For now, this will have to do. Until tomorrow, mes amis, quand je peux expliquer toutes les choses que j'ai vu au Beverly Hilton aujourd'hui.

Please keep in mind that any and all photography taken at this event was done stealthily and without any posing, preparation (physical or mental) or positioning. It was all done for the express purpose of my own personal amusement. Many times when I snapped a photo, I made it seem like I was checking myself in the dark reflection of my screen (using it as a mirror) or looking at my texts to come off as less of a creep.

But now you know I'm a creep. Or maybe you already knew that? Either way, hope you liked your insight into the CBS Summer Press Tour 2012.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Across the Universe

There is very little in this world that is actually "universal." In literal branding, I guess we have Universal Studios (the theme park and the motion picture producers) and their parent company NBCUniversal. And I'm sure there are many smaller ventures that carry the term. But even the things that are supposedly universal generally don't live up to the title.

Take universal health care - this idea we had for our country (which, by the way, is not the universe - even if we believe it to be) of creating a government funded health care option - that has now become the watered down version of the individual health care mandate. Even what we want to span a wide variety of people, a plan that could benefit everyone in this country, draws anger and polarization. Even the term "universal" isn't universal. We use it to describe the world (or the country, if we're talking universal health care). But the universe is so much bigger than the world we live in.

So what is universal?

To be honest, there isn't much that is. Especially because we have such limited knowledge of the universe outside of our solar system, it would be difficult to make exact answers to this question. Unless you're a scientist with NASA - in which case you have some authority. I do not.

But I am a scientist of other things. Art, for instance. Or at least I like to think of myself as one. And with this distinction - self-proclaimed, but still - I like to think I can make a pretty keen, yet obvious observation about universality in the art world.

Of course, we must limit the term "universal" to mean, as it often does, the world we know. The world we live in. The seven continents of the planet Earth.

So what is universal in art throughout this many continents featuring many individual countries with unique states, provinces, cities, towns, etc. etc.?

Let's just be honest: not much. The world is a very diverse place filled with varied societies with differing temperaments and interests.

But if I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there's one artistic thing that is universal - in the limited sense of being universal in the world we know (and even more limited sense of being universal in the world I know, which is strictly the modern westernized world) - then I'd know what I'd go with...

My favorite photo of the fab four.
The Beatles.

When you grow up with this band like I did, you get this mistaken feeling from a very early age that they're yours and yours alone. In my single-digit years, I remember watching an event on television - maybe it was the Grammy's, maybe it was something else (I have such a bad memory) - where Paul, Ringo and George came out onto the stage for some reason (See? What a bad memory).

While I was watching the show with my dad, I remember thinking "If he likes them so much, he should just be friends with them." If only I knew.

Since then I learned a lot about my dad's obsession with The Beatles. For one, he liked them back during their Ed Sullivan Show first appearance year, as the phenomenon - Beatlemania, as they call it - was just beginning. I also learned that he had a greater knowledge of the band than most people who purport to be great fans do. And that's entirely credited to the fact that The Beatles are so incredibly universal.

Yesterday I was at the office where I'm interning and my coworker decided to bring in her iPod to play over speaker throughout the day. At first she put on a country music playlist and I cringed for every song other than those by Taylor Swift. Then she put on her photoshoot playlist which was basically a conglomeration of house party music and other tunes I just couldn't care to pay attention to.

When she finally left the room for a moment, I ran over to the iPod and looked through the playlists only to find my godsend, one entitled "Beatles." I turned it on, only to be astonished by the fact that there were only about 20-something titles within it.

What excuses someone to choose around 20 of the Beatles songs when there are over 250 to choose from? Isn't it just common sense to make a playlist of at least 100?

A few years ago, I was in my dad's room when I found a crumpled up piece of paper he'd been writing on. The text on the page was all scribbled, like he'd been frantic about copying everything down before it left his mind. But the title was clear. This was a list of his Top 100 Beatles Songs.

I think that was when it first hit me what a prolific and consistently wonderful band The Beatles were. And why they have managed to garner what seems like the widest spread audience of any musical performer in the history of the world. Move over Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, Rachmaninoff, Chopin and every other classical composer known for the widespread appreciation of their work. By 1964 you will be outshadowed by an irreverent bunch of drug-doing, alcohol-swigging, girl-loving post-pubescent but still immature teenagers who somehow have the intensity to make some of the most passionate music of all time.

When I found that list of my dad's favorite Beatles songs, I decided it was my job to compile a collection of them to put on CDs and present to him as a gift. I spent more than a few days fishing through all of my dad's Beatles CDs, ripping music onto Windows Media Player and burning four CDs, each with 25 songs, of the "best" Beatles music.

In the process, I learned more about this band that had felt like it belonged to me since infancy - when I sat in the backseat of my dad's car and he blasted "Yellow Submarine" as we sang along.

So it took about a decade for me to fully grasp why The Beatles were such a big deal. But I think the great thing is that no matter what stage of your life you're listening to them in, they never actually seem like they were such a big deal.

Unlike musicians that grew into phenomenons that outshined even their best songs - take Michael Jackson or Madonna or any other celebrity who became tabloid royalty in the past several decades - The Beatles have always been about music first. Even after they parted ways to pursue their own careers separately, it was always more about the music than the image.

When we listen to them now, that devotion still resonates. We think of them as this infallible, yet constantly improving and changing musical group. Their sound went through so many stages, yet all of them were inextricable from the larger notion of The Beatles - that name in neon lights that has always represented the epitome of rock music, nay all music.

One of the most difficult, yet wonderful things about art is that it isn't universal. That when you love something artistic, it feels like it's yours. That you can be astonished to learn that people share your interests, and that you can share your passion with them and, to put it in sophisticated terms, "geek out" about what interests you.

You'd think that this might be lost on Beatles fans, if only because they have become such a worldwide phenomenon that they almost no longer feel like art at all. They're pin-up boys, T-Shirt emblems, the faces of memorabilia and even a franchise.

But that's not the case at all. And I believe that's why they've been able to create such a hearty, yet devoted and strangely connected fanbase.

Because even though we tend to understand that The Beatles are the universal music - that everyone and their brother is a fan, even if that means they only have a playlist of 22 Beatles songs on their iPod (still a travesty) - they still feel like our band. Like the musical act we listen to in the car with our three year old, or the songs we commiserate with when we're sad, or the band we tell new acquaintances about if they ask what our favorite music is. They may be huge, but their singularly ours just the same.

It's weird to think that this band that I believed my dad could be best friends with a few years ago is really such an unreachable, global collection of men. That I grew up in a time when The Beatles were in no way my thing because they had been so many other people's thing before me.

Yet I believe there's some underlying force that keeps their music successful - it's a feeling that you get when you hear it. It's constantly fresh, constantly inviting, constantly reminding you that you're hearing the creation of a small group of men, that in some way you're connecting with them even if a million other people have done so in the exact same fashion.

For all these reasons, The Beatles continue to live on as the one group that you can count on everyone to love. And if they don't, you can start checking for wires because they're probably a robot. The Beatles music has traveled "Across the Universe" and back again. And it only makes sense that they foretold that with a song title.

Friday, July 27, 2012

In response to allegations of racism in The Nightingale

Coming from a critic, the phrase "opinions for opinions' sake" may be something strange and foreign. As someone who watches tons of entertainment, good and bad, the idea of brushing aside a critical perspective makes me cringe. I believe it's the public opinion that keeps the arts in check, preventing it from being too cerebral and far-reaching or too dumb and low-brow, and allows the world of theater, film, television, visual art and (arguably) music to keep progressing through different eras and societal spheres.

Then I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about the public's reaction to a musical I saw just a few weeks ago titled The Nightingale with music and lyrics by the duo that brought us the incredible musical 2007 Tony Award winning Best Musical Spring Awakening.

Let me preface by saying I have the utmost respect for the Los Angeles Times, its Calendar section, its writers and its editorial staff. I was also very pleased with the La Jolla Playhouse where The Nightingale is currently being performed. And being a member of the Japanese American community, I have as much concern as any other Asian American for the proper representation of our race and the still prevalent battle against racism that still exists, however hidden from the public eye out of political correctness.

But what I learned in this article disturbed me.

Without forcing anyone to take a look at the full story, I will simply explain that the show The Nightingale has received backlash from the Asian American community because the musical, which is set in Imperial China, consists of a multicultural cast including Caucasians and African Americans, with only a small number of actual Asians portraying purportedly Asian characters.

While I can understand from a personal perspective that there is a constant battle facing people of color and exotic backgrounds, in which they must combat stereotypes and a sense of supremacy of an Anglo-Saxon image, in my opinion this argument has gone too far considering the context.

Particularly the line in the article that reads "The show has 'created the perception that the world is ruled by white men,' said one attendee."

When I sat down to watch The Nightingale, I had already looked up the cast so that I might be prepared for the production. I'd read a brief plot synopsis and listened to some songs in advance too. So I guess I'd prepared myself for something unusual and unorthodox. In other words, I knew that I would be going into a show that didn't claim to be representing a sense of reality.

Since The Nightingale is based on a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, it is conducted in a fanciful manner on the stage. The set pieces are very minimalistic, with a set of bars representing a giant bird cage and a table on wheels subbing in for a boat. Much is left to the imagination in this play, and I think that is to its credit. It is the kind of performance that draws you into the characters' psyches rather than their image or the superficiality of the storyline.

Like a great independent film, The Nightingale is rife with implications and personal interpretations. It is not meant to make a political statement, nor is it meant to adequately represent any sort of honest depiction of China. Just as I'm sure Andersen's original fairy tale was only a loose perspective on Chinese culture, considering he was a Danish man who (as far as I know) had not traveled to Asia nor researched Asian culture in serious depth to make his story culturally accurate, this play was a work of fiction and not meant to be taken within the context of an ethnically or even literally accurate interpretation.

Where I could see some merit to the argument against a mixed race cast for what is a show based in China would be if there was some sort of offensive "Asian-face" incident or effort to bastardize the culture in some way. But after seeing the show, I had no reason to believe that the creative team behind The Nightingale had any intention of insulting the Chinese through their casting choices. It was merely their decision to bring some excellent performers on board, regardless of race.

I could also understand if the cast was entirely Caucasian, why that might be of concern or even warrant the overzealous commentary that was mentioned in the Los Angeles Times article. But the fact of the matter is, the casting seemed quite ethnically blind.

It reminded me a bit of watching Made for TV Cinderella featuring Brandy in the title role that came out in 1997. While I was too young to have explored the idea of controversy surrounding that movie, I've never encountered any anger from my acquaintances over the casting of an Asian man (Paolo Montalban) as Prince Charming, with Whoopi Goldberg (an African American woman, as well all know) and Victor Garber (who is Caucasian) as his mother and father respectively.

This is simply because as a whole, Cinderella worked. The ethnically-blind casting made it so the film succeeded based on the talent of its performers, not their demographics.

So why can't we open our eyes and see the same merit in The Nightingale?

I think part of the issue here is that Cinderella is seen as a classic fairytale, and perhaps even detached from its suggested location in France (Cinderella, her stepmother and her stepsisters live in a Chateau before she becomes Prince Charming's bride), while The Nightingale is not as well-known or accepted of a text. But as easy as it is to forget that Cinderella is supposedly taking place in France, it is equally easy to forget that The Nightingale is taking place in China. Aside from the ethnically-specific names, there is nothing inherently Chinese about this story. It is a typical fairytale, including princes and princesses, lowly servants, high fortress-like walls and animals with mystical powers.

If it were not this way - if it were actually dependent on a connection to the Chinese culture - there might be some merit to the argument of preserving the cultural identification. But there really is not much to back-up this opinion.

There is also the issue of Asian cultures perhaps being more mindful of discrimination and mistreatment as opposed to their European counterparts.

This is for good reason, I'll admit. I am the first person to defend the right of the Asian American community to remind their white American counterparts that around 70 years ago, xenophobia was the reason behind Japanese Americans being forced into internment camps during World War II. There were injustices paid to my people and I have no reason to believe that anyone should be silenced for reminding the world of that fact.

But is this casting decision really an injustice to the Asian American community?

If you ask me, certainly not.

Perhaps when looking at this issue from an outsider's perspective, it could seem insensitive and racially charged. If we don't understand the goings-on of the theater, we might believe there was some internal reasoning by the creative staff at the La Jolla Playhouse, allowing them to make racist casting choices that favored Caucasians over Asians even though they were casting a musical set in China.

The problem with this explanation is that it forgets the most important thing about casting in the theater: artistic license. It would be unfair to say that casting directors for The Nightingale purposely chose to leave out Asian American cast members, because we don't have the insights to know how their decisions were made. What we have to accept is that what was done in the theater in this instance was toward creating a quality musical, not a decision out of spite for the whole of Asia or its people.

Sometimes i worry that the race debate becomes all too heated under the most ridiculous of circumstances. We scoff at racial slurs and common stereotypes (How many times have I heard that Asians are bad drivers? Or complaints from underachievers about how Asians supposedly do so much better in school than their Caucasian counterparts?), but when it comes to an issue that is not actually racially charged, but artistically motivated, we pounce and attack at will.

This is the kind of opinion that is simply for opinions' sake. It is not an adequate critique because it does not take into account the merit of the work or the reasoning behind it. It simply draws a dogmatic conclusion based off of unsubstantiated and emotional arguments. And it fails to recognize the true issue at hand here.

What we need from the Asian American community is a stand against real issues of racism and support for instituting cultural pride in the community as well. Destroying a musical that truly does nothing to insult China or its people does little to foster fundamental discussions.

Realistically, this musical might have functioned just as well with an all-Asian cast as it does with a mixed race class. But that doesn't excuse us to start pointing fingers and yelling "racist" in a crowded theater at a show that had no visible motives of the sort.

I only wish that those who are of this opinion give the show a second chance to prove that any ethnic misrepresentations were not conducted with cruel intentions, but with the right toward artistic interpretation. As an Asian American, I watched the show fully aware that it was taking liberties with casting, but I chose to accept it as a piece of unique artwork rather than a political statement. And I think that's why I loved it. Connecting with the music, the story, the characters, the performances had nothing to do with race.

If you really look at The Nightingale, there is no race at all. Just a beautiful story. And isn't that all we really want from theater in the first place? Speaking for myself alone, the answer is yes.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seemingly innocuous feelings

One of the most interesting things to think about is why things happen the way they do. How do belongings disappear or wrinkles appear or trees fall in the woods when there's no one around? What kind of forces are beyond our control, yet sometimes feel like they are inexplicably linked to our psyches, maybe even dictated by our thoughts.

I'm not really one to believe in serendipity, fate, karma or any other far-fetched property of spirituality. But this morning when I was driving to work, I was listening to music in the car and thinking to myself the useless thoughts that I often do during my two hour commute.

While I sat in my seat and pondered on the light traffic of the 134 freeway, one song of my iPod playlist ended and another was about to begin. In that two second window, a thought occurred to me for no apparent reason.

It's not often that I think about the next song from my playlist that will come on at any particular moment, but at that second I remember saying to myself, "The next song that comes on will probably be 'I Will' by The  Beatles."

Out of the 10 + hours of music that could be played, in that moment I just happened to be right. And I couldn't fathom how or why.

In the same moment, I drove past Forest Lawn Cemetery. Without getting too morbid, I'll explain that my mom passed away when I was 15 and she is buried at Forest Lawn, which overlooks the 134 as well as the Walt Disney Animation Studios, and which I see every day when I go to work.

For some reason, when I drove past Forest Lawn and "I Will" came on, I started tearing up. Even though the song is about a romantic relationship and that love that comes from that, I could feel a connection with my mom in the lyrics.

Particularly at the moment that Paul sang "love you when we're apart," I just couldn't handle my emotions and started bawling while merging into the left-most lane on the freeway. I'm sure anyone who peered into my car thought I was nuts, but I couldn't help myself.

Now, let me reiterate that I just don't subscribe to religious theories of interconnectivity with the afterlife or with a higher power. But at a time like this I have to second guess even my most devoted beliefs - or lack thereof.

What if there is some force out there allowing us to maintain contact with deceased loved ones? Or to have insights into our own futures? Or affect our lives for better or for worse as a result of our actions? How could we rightly know?

I guess we could say that we rightly know because we've never experienced anything profound that proves the "what ifs" probable.

But then we're in the car on our way to work and we start crying because we do have a profound experience.

It's possible that anything I felt in that moment was due to coincidence. Chalk it up to an overactive imagination and random luck that I started sobbing while driving. Then again, we could also blame the universe which - despite being so huge and so impossibly undefinable - occasionally likes to throw our minds and our belief systems for a loop.

I was thrown for a loop today, but in the most wonderful and positive way.

And even though I so often profess my feelings about indoctrination and personal choice, about discovering your spiritual life for yourself and not being influenced by religious systems that aim to make you believe in what you may never fully comprehend, I think I was really meant to share this story.

Because even though it may be simple, and even as a result seemingly innocuous, it was pretty darn significant. And if you're smart you don't just let go of those moments, you fix your thoughts on them until they make sense.

Before writing this, my experience didn't make perfect sense. But with every word, it starts to feel a bit more clear.


Usually at my internship there isn't much variation in the conduct of day-to-day activities. I wake up at 6 AM, get out of the house by 7, arrive at work by 9 and then hang out at a desk taking on projects and assignments from all over our office.

But today started differently, because rather than going into the comfort of what I've known and done for several weeks now, I was asked to reflect on internships in general and the opportunity I've been given specifically.

The thing about internships, or at least those that are offered at my place of work is that they're so based around introspection and questioning. Even more than actual work that we do once we graduate, when we're given the chance to take on this lowly position we're asked to analyze it as if it's the most significant experience in our lives.

For some people, maybe it is. maybe making copies and performing office tasks allows them to think critically about the world around them.

During my intern breakfast it felt like that's what they wanted to keep reminding us. For an hour and 45 minutes, we discussed networking and insights into building careers, using even the most dull opportunities to prove that we can be successful employees.

In my past five weeks of interning, I've had to keep reminding myself of this. That even though I may not be doing all that I'd like to "on the job," that everything I can do also has value.

It reminds me a lot of a crisis I've had at my work study job at university. working in the Archives, I often feel held back by the sheer quantity of copies I make, by the number of file locations I've had to memorize, by the amount of times I've had to go into storage dungeons to locate a random document that some alumnus requested.

In fact, I don't just deal with this crisis, I complain about it too.

Last year I almost transferred out of a job I felt happy and comfortable with because I became so incredibly picky abut what I believed I should be doing versus what I was doing. I'd long for either less work or more, but I was never happy with what I had.

The business world is outfitted to encourage us to keep pursuing upward mobility. The commonly utilized system of networking practically begs us to never let ourselves become too satisfied with where we are. Instead, it asks us to reach for the stars and deliberately force anyone who gives us a chance along the ay to push us even further with recommendations and suggestions of connections, or even mentorship.

My problem is that though I enjoy being put to more work and learning anything beyond the copy machine, my social skills just don't facilitate it.

I wish there was a part of my conscience that begged me to be more proactive and aggressive. Sometimes I feel exactly the opposite of those things. Then I go to a networking intern breakfast and have the feelings enforced even more.

So it's time for a change, or at least time to learn to be more social and inquisitive. Even when I'd much rather burrow into a hole, it's something that I need to face. I'll keep you updated on my progress.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The common misconception

I always marvel at people with bunches and bunches of close friends and acquaintances. For years I've looked at them with envy, wishing I had the friendliness and social capacity to create similarly plentiful relationships. But I, like many other people my age and all ages less and greater than mine, am one of the unfortunate ones who - while not necessarily capable of making a bad impression - for some reason has incredible trouble with cultivating closeness with a large quantity of people.

This subject has spawned a lot of conversations between me and one of my close friends, with whom I often argue about the fairness of building friendships.

It sounds stupid when I put it like that, but if you'll hear me out perhaps it'll make more sense.

My friends are incredibly nice and wonderful people. They are loving and caring. They don't instigate "drama" or fights. They never make me feel unwanted or superfluous. But they're also pretty exclusively mine.

I'm not saying they have no other friends. We all do. And I'm not saying that I'm necessarily the most important friend to any one of them. Choosing favorites isn't our game. But what I do know is that they have the capacity to share their love with so many people...and for some reason they don't.

When I talk with my friend (whom I mentioned earlier) about building friendships and how the process can sometimes be trying and difficult, it makes me consider myself and the people I surround with. Why is it that we can see and know social butterflies, even emulate their characteristics, yet we are comparatively reserved and devoted to a smaller social circle?

Oddly enough, this confusion led my friend and I - and I realize I've yet to speak her name, just get used to it - to have a lot of conversations in the last year about the subject of conversations. How's that for a roundabout thought process?

During our many conversations on this subject, we asked each other about our experiences getting to know mutual friends and mutual acquaintances. We compared the outcomes and discovered that there's one issue that we can't quite resolve: why so many conversations are one-sided.

Many times when I meet new people, our interactions end up involving one person making all the effort to instigate further conversation while the other person calmly and disinterestedly answers questions. I've been on both the instigating and receiving end of this awkward pattern, and I hate it.

It's also what I blame for most of my difficulties with making friends, and why a lot of the people I meet are similar to me by the fact that we don't get to know absolutely everyone. It's not just that we've experienced this feeling of either forcing conversation or letting it falter, but that we recognize when there's enough to a conversation that it makes sense to go further.

Back when I started college, I faced this dilemma a lot. Meeting a lot of new people, it can be hard to differentiate between who will become a person to say "hi" to in the hall versus a person to hang out with on weekends and invite to dinner every night. Or at least you can think it's hard to differentiate until you meet the people who fall into the latter category.

Though it's possible to grow in friendships with people, I'm a firm believer in first impressions. Many of my closest friends have become that way because incredibly early on we discovered we had enough mutual interests and a similar enough temperament that it made sense for us to be close.

While I have nothing against people who get to know everyone and who end up becoming beloved by the world - admittedly, if anything I admire and envy them - I feel it is my duty to stress that there is as much value in shy close-knit friendship-hood as there is in social butterfly-hood.

I think the opposite is a common misconception. We're raised to believe that quantity over quality is somehow a feasible argument. But in reality, the trite phrase "less is more" can hold just as much weight if not more.

How many of your acquaintances can you count on to be by your side when your family is going through a difficult time? How many can you expect to lend you money if you need it? How many can you even trust to be your confidantes?

Sometimes I look at my Facebook friends list or the number of contacts I have in my cell phone, and I judge my life by that measure. How many can I get? How many does everyone else have?

Maybe it would be better to turn the tables and ask myself how few I actually need, or how many are necessary. I think that would be a better use of my time - if only to discover who will really make a difference in my life in the long run.

Because we don't need a million people to talk to in our lives. What we really need is those one, two, three, four, or however few people that really make us feel like what we say matters and who we feel the same way about. In my opinion, that's real friendship. And that's what I strive for.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Loss and taking chances

There was a Burger King right near my house. I used to go there almost every weekend with a group of my friends and play at the indoor playground, crawling through plastic tubes and falling down slides, playing hide and go seek in the little crevices and running around like crazy. I thought things would never change. I didn't want them to.

And they didn't...for a while anyway. I kept going to the playground in that Burger King for years and years, having an orange soda and french fries on the side while I weaseled into small spaces that weren't actually meant to played in.

Then, after a few years, that Burger King was no longer a Burger King. It became a furniture store, the drive-thru in the back becoming superfluous, the playground being removed, never to be seen again, and all of those memories gone in an instant, replaced by a furniture store.

I've never been good at dealing with change. Even though I'm the type of person who is always looking to make life more interesting, to find a way to create the perfect world for myself - by living in different places, trying different hobbies and jobs, meeting new people, etc. - I am also seriously afraid of uprooting my feeling of comfort with how things are. Sometimes it feels like they're meant to be that way and letting go becomes even more of a challenge.

On a small scale, this occurred to me today while I was shopping for cosmetics at the store. I went in looking for certain products that were tried and true and in the end had to walk out with alternatives that I couldn't be fully sure of. And while that was a chance involving minutia that shouldn't be incredibly life altering, it ended up being a metaphor for a struggle that a lot of people face, certainly not least of all myself.

Because so much of life is about accepting the inevitability of growing up and discovering new fascinating things, we must struggle through the most difficult crises that arise when we lose what we've assumed would be ours forever.

When I had finished at the store, my dad and I went over to visit my sister and my baby niece, Sydney. Before we did, though, we'd stopped by Toys R Us - for me it was a little adventure back into childhood and for my dad it was a chance to buy Sydney a new toy. Throughout these experiences, I couldn't stop thinking and talking about what a joy it would be to not have to let go of childhood.

It's strange because we spend so much of our young lives complaining about not having the benefits of adulthood. We can't order things off the television ("Must be 18 or older to call") and in my case, being young meant being prohibited from attending television tapings (16 years or older to sit in the audience of tame sitcom, please).

But at every step along the way, even when we've spent so much of our past lives complaining and hoping for the future, it's hard not to look back with feelings of love and loss.

I guess that's a bit strong when I'm talking about cosmetics. But when I think about all that I plan to do, all the life choices that I'll be making in the next few years, I have to consider all the emotional ramifications that accompany the decisions I make - even those that seem inevitable. Like moving to London, for instance.

How will I cope with leaving the country I grew up in? Or the family and friends I care so much about? How will my life be different? Is all of the trouble worth it to live in the one place in the world that has ever made me feel completely happy and at home?

Maybe part of the reason I bring this up is because I'm currently watching the finale of The Bachelorette, which is such a very "emotional" end to a turbulent whirlwind of a television show (I'm trying to be facetious, is it working?). As final decisions are made - I know I'm making this out to be a lot more serious than it is - I can't help contemplating the decisions I'll make as well.

So with the hope of not sounding like a valedictorian making their speech at a high school graduation, I'd like to call for everyone to take a second and think about the choices we make in our lives. Not just the large considerations like where we want to live when we grow up or who we want to marry or anything like that. But also on the little things - like what we choose to do with our free time, who we choose to spend that time with, what we buy and what we use and what we do under all circumstances.

Because everything we do changes our lives in some way, however small. When I start using a different scent of facial cleanser, it may sound silly, but it will affect how I feel about myself - maybe for the minute it takes to wash my face, maybe for as long as it takes for the company to discontinue the product I've just purchased. Who knows.

And really who knows how we'll feel about anything. What we can count on though, is that with contemplation and careful thought, we're closer to finding comfort in whatever we do. Even if that means giving up the past.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Obon Festival in pictures

So if anyone loves their ethnic heritage so much that they want to share that side of them with the entire world, that person is me. I've written blogs about the subject from time to time, made a sincere effort to continue learning about cultural traditions as much as I can - which is hard considering all of the random information I stuff into my brain on a daily basis.

But today was great because I didn't have to force myself to be immersed in one side of my very starkly contrasted ethnic backgrounds. It was all there right in front of me in the form of the Obon Festival.

I've been going to this festival since I was a wee little tot. They hold them every summer at the Orange County Buddhist Church with everything from food to games to entertainment to dancing. People go in street clothes or in kimonos/yukatas (like I was today), and it's just an overall blast - a treat for Japanese and non-Japanese alike.

With all that said, I don't think you should have to wait any longer for what this blog post is actually about: a look at the Obon Festival 2012.

Just outside the festival a self-explanatory banner blows in the wind.

But before leaving (I'm putting these out of order so I can get an appropriate thumbnail for the post), my grandma puts on her make-up. She's so pretty.

Once at the festival we explore the stalls, including those with clothing and handmade crafts.

We purchase Okinawa Dango, a deep fried doughnut-y pastry that is amazing and artery-clogging.

Then we sit down to eat our udon which is the signature dish, always served in the gym at the church.

This is me being the opposite of dainty as I eat udon.

Then we watch as imagawayaki - a fluffy pastry with bean paste inside - is prepared.

Though they got rid of our favorite game booth (drats), we observe other people scoring in their respective endeavors.

And then I stand aside and take photos of little children adjusting their kimonos. So cute.

Until Tori arrives and models Japanese stereotypes for the camera.

Then as taiko drums sound, I distract myself by taking more pictures of little girls in their adorable kimonos. I miss being that cute.

The taiko performance brings out a huge audience.

And once they are done, we dance the night away (my grandma off-screen) - our backs aching and our leg muscles strained and dying.
As you can see, Obon is a fun yearly activity. For all my life it's been something to look forward to - a kind of stable community event that reminds me that not everything has to change when you grow up. And I love that the Obon Festival has grown up with me - consistent every year.

From the years that I used to throw ping-pong balls into fish bowls to try and win a goldfish (poor goldfish) to now when I go all out dressed in a yukata with wooden geta sandals that destroy the soles of my feet, the memories from this place at this time of year never fail to bring joy into my life.

Now if only it happened more than one weekend a year. But I guess that's the fun, isn't it?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The troubles of concert-going

Fountains of Wayne in concert tonight!
One of my most overused complaints under any and all circumstances is that I lose out on so much because I'm short. At 5'3", I'm too tiny to wear most standard sized jeans, I'm too petite to reach the top shelf of my kitchen cabinets without climbing on the counter, I'm too small to scale brick buildings (in the event that I might want to defy authority, but unlike the other two issues this doesn't come up so often), among other lacking abilities simply because the world is made for a race of people much taller than I.

When I go to concerts, this becomes an even greater issue. Because humanity has decided it is more important to stand and go ape crazy at live shows rather than sit in their designated seats or stand a reasonable distance from one another in a general audience venue, I've come to know that concert-going is just not a sport that is made for the tiny among us.

Most people learn this lesson when they're teenagers, going to their first concert with a group of friends and trying to make it to the front of the venue so they can have a good view. Maybe they have someone friendly in front of them who allows them to stand in front since they cause no visual hindrance. I have never been so lucky.

At 10, I went to my first standing room only concert at a House of Blues where a bunch of teeny boppers had gathered to see Aaron Carter and a few other Radio Disney favorites perform. I had made it into the second tier of four (the theater was divided into these sections, but within them everyone was standing up), but since I was at most 4'10", I was just too short to see a thing.

I'd been to Aaron Carter concerts before (gasp), and while that ended up being a fine experience, I remember growing claustrophobic and annoyed as my head only stood at about elbow height for many of the other attendees.

I've grown a bit since then, and been to a few more concerts where I've had to stand in an audience of tall people (quite a few, actually), but I still can't get over the fact that going to see a band feels like such an ordeal if you happen to be vertically challenged.

In so many ways I've conquered the troubles of my height deficiency. I've learned how to dress my body and where to find appropriate clothes for my stature, I've figured out mechanisms and methods of doing the things that are made more difficult by my smallness, I've learned to ask for help if I am too short to do something in public like putting a suitcase in the overhead bin on an airplane or climbing over a brick wall (again, not something I do often, but it has happened).

But you'd think that by now the world - the music-loving concert-going world - would have figured out a way for me to go to a show without having to be first in line so that I can make it right in front of the stage or else suffer in the back.

Alas, the world has not.

In some ways I credit this injustice - ooh, now I'm getting angry - for my dwindling interest in going to concerts in general. While my fascination with the arts in other areas has grown exponentially over the years, the truth of the matter is that in the past few I've gone to fewer concerts than I went to back when I was 12 or 13.

I think the issue is that concerts are the one environment where civility is often abandoned for personal gain. While going to see a movie or a musical or an opera or a ballet or any other form of seated theater entertainment is grounded by a sense of community and fair treatment, concerts are so much about getting to the front, first come first serve. We fight for our spot, or for our view, and if we don't get exactly what we want, then hell with the person in front of us - we're here to serve ourselves.

The only other time I see that sort of behavior is when I'm driving. People tend to maintain some sense of entitlement on the road, losing any empathy and civility in exchange for personal gain.

Though I must admit to being vicious and self-serving as well on occasion, I can see the faults in my own actions and I hope that one day the figurative "world" I mentioned before will have figured out a way around this.

Just imagine if decades ago when people had gone to see Edith Piaf in concert. What if they had all stood in their seats or stormed the stage, moving people aside? Would we look back on them and judge them for their indelicacy?

Perhaps it's a wrongful metaphor since Edith Piaf is considered a bastion of high-brow entertainment and most modern concerts are not up to that level of sophistication and beauty (I'm ready to hear complaints), but I still think the argument stands to some extent.

Tonight I'm going to see a Fountains of Wayne concert. The second in a few months. And once again, I'm going to be seated in the show in an area separate from the standing room section. It will hopefully be an environment that can prevent me from being trampled on or denied a view.

Looking back on Aaron Carter or even Green Day and Jonas Brothers concerts I've been to more recently, I wish I'd had the same option given to me. Just a chance to be away from that cut-throat negativity that envelopes the concert-going experience. Because sometimes it's more fun to just listen to the music and sway without sweating through your clothes and having your white Converse turn a mucky brown.

That's just my two cents.

Friday, July 20, 2012

How technology ruined my friendships

Do you remember that scene from He's Just Not That Into You where Drew Barrymore's character goes on a tangent about why technology has for all intents and purposes destroyed the ease of dating in the modern world? She cites MySpace, text messages, email, etc. etc. for her troubles, claiming that "you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies."

Even though I've never had to deal with a break up via text, I've had my fair share of troubles due to many of the common mistakes that crop up when we rely too heavily on a form of interaction that is so impersonal, so noncommittal, yet so intimate and telling about our culture and ourselves.

A few years ago I was sitting around during winter break with nothing to do. I'd just gotten my wisdom teeth out and my friends were all busy or something (I can't remember why I was alone at home, but I was). I couldn't eat regular food, I could barely stand to listen to the television because I had such a strong throbbing pain in my head (I refused to take any painkillers harder than ibuprofen because they made me nauseous). The puzzle that my friends had given me as a gift to get me through the hours of pain post-surgery sat in my closet, but I refused to reduce myself to an invalid playing with simplistic toys.

So I pulled out a more complicated toy, my computer.

That winter I joined a website called Interpals which you would do well to never look up. While my intentions were honorable as I signed up one December afternoon, my experience would teach me that the most important relationships are the ones that are right outside your door, or just a phone call away.

When I started in on the world of Interpals, I was looking to have friends all around the world. That's the premise of the site - make shallow friendships with a bunch of people in various countries so if you ever decide to go backpacking through Europe or Asia or any of the other continents, you will have friends to show you around who speak the language or know the best restaurants and sights to see.

But I soon learned that the theory of these sites is in no way like the outcome. I was met with propositions and requests for romances, even people that creeped into the realm of pedophilia. Still, I walked away with a few friendships that have lasted several years, however distant they may be in geography and in length of time between conversations.

At the time I didn't think much of my decision to join a website like that. It was an innocent occupation of time, right? No harm in making friends from other countries. Even if others have wrongful intentions, you just weed out the unlikelies and make friends with those who are genuine and who you can perform safety background checks on.

Then today I started thinking about that scene from He's Just Not That Into You and how even in a situation that seems innocent and frivolous, we hold our emotions in the balance and make way for people to hurt us more easily because, at least in the case of Interpals or the internet in general, there's no societal protocol keeping us ethically grounded.

Because over time, relationships that are founded on inferior modes of interaction tend to wither and die. And unless the two people involved actually care at an equal level to keep things friendly and interactive, one person always ends up feeling like they're being rejected. Even if it isn't a romantic relationship.

I've never had this problem with my real friends, my in-person friends. If I've ever felt distant from them, it's been by physical proximity, not by lack of communication. That's where websites like Interpals go wrong. While they purport to create worthwhile friendships, and admittedly I've made some and I'm sure others have too, they also prey on the people who are the most vulnerable - those among us who are in most need of human interaction but perhaps lack the amount of it that we need.

Because of that emptiness, people turn to relationships inferior to the ones they have right next door and create something virtual that feels falsely stronger. The truth of internet friendships and relationships is that until they are grounded in something more concrete, there is no commitment involved. It can feel like talking to a wall, like sharing your soul with that wall and then walking away from it because that's all it was - a wall.

Even my friendships with people I've known for years in real life have been strained by technology. Not because they prevent us from interacting - in fact, it's the opposite - but because they prevent us from interacting in a way that isn't superficial.

Though we'd like to pretend that when we IM someone we're fully interacting with them, or when we email someone we're absorbed in the content we're composing, when we're doing these things chances are we have at least two or three other tabs open on Firefox or we're also IMing another person or two.

Unlike the loveliness that is letterwriting or phone calling, both exercises that require the utmost attention and devotion of time, the internet forces us to be multitaskers, and in being multitaskers we start to expect large quantities of friends, large quantities of interaction. When we don't get that, we grow bored. We long for more. We abandon what actually matters.

I struggled with letting go of Interpals because for a while the website made me feel like popularity was something I coveted. If I could make friends all over the world, somehow my network of cohorts felt stronger, even though in reality my friendships were growing weaker due to my distraction.

Now I like to think I care about knowing people who I have the potential to really grow and interact with in reality. Living in a virtual world has its simplicity and its ease, but it is also the surest way to feel lost, to feel rejected, to feel like you never have quite enough time to be the person you want to be.

Instead of writing to internet friends - of which I only have a good two or three now - I've spent my extra moments to interact with myself (I blog every night), my dad (in the evenings), my friends (on the weekends) and the rest of my family (whenever my schedule permits, which will increase as the summer closes). And I finally get why it's so important to treasure those relationships above everything else. They're the ones that will actually last, survive inside and outside the internet world and never be a source of petty drama, but rather real love.

So technology may have ruined my friendships, but in doing so it also taught me what the term really means. And maybe that's a lesson worth learning, even if there are some bumps along the way.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fadding it up

There was a time when I refused to be a part of the mainstream. This was before hipsterism had returned full-force and become part of the mainstream itself. It was a time when I could barely realize that by trying to be different, I actually wasn't being different. I guess that's what middle school does to most people.

Up until the age of 12, I don't think I cared much what people thought of me or my choices. In sixth grade, I was an individual because I was such a loner that I had no one to emulate. I was careless with my personal grooming efforts, I was fine doing/watching/reading/listening to whatever I wanted, regardless of how it would have me perceived because I supposed I didn't quite notice how I was being perceived by others in the first place.

When I hit middle school, though, I started falling into the familiarity of fads. And even though I lost my eclecticism by gaining a sort of unspoken symbiosis with the rest of preteen humanity, I considered myself an individual and I prized that.

I listened to Green Day at the time - this being during their big comeback of 2004 and 2005 - and considered myself outside the norm by doing so. Their popularity was such a hot button issue at the time that being a firm supporter made you feel like you were special in some way. Standing up again those who preferred My Chemical Romance became a sport. It was fun to be "different" even if the condition only separated you from a few people, while actually bringing you close to a larger group.

That is what took me a while to actually understand. That maybe, just maybe, it's not the differentiation that does us well, but finding a niche in society that fits with our standards. When I was 12, that niche was Green Day. It was the black nail-polish sporting, band t-shirts wearing, dark eyeliner on the lower lid styling that "set me apart" even though it actually pushed me together with thousands of other girls just like me.

But it was a little bit pervasive, this relationship I had with other girls who liked Green Day and went for the punk/goth/Billie Joe Armstrong look at 12 years old. Until a few years later when I met my friend Dana, I didn't even realize that there were many other girls just like me. But I'm sure there were.

I may have had a problem with that at the time, but now I'm pleased by it.

A few years later I became a fan of the Twilight book series. Two of my good friends had read the book and become crazy about this nebulous character Edward Cullen. I wanted to know what it was they were getting so excited about, so I decided to read the book on my own.

Despite my current chagrin due to the mediocre writing style and uninspired characters of Stephenie Meyer's book, I still have a place in my heart for Twilight. It's a series that brought me together with my friends, gave us craft projects (we dressed as Cullens for one Halloween) and forced us to attend movie screenings and book releases.

Though in some way I lost my sense of individuality in my interests, being a Twi-hard was a welcome transition into a world where uniqueness isn't the order of the day. But that isn't to say conformity is either.

For a while I stayed away from fads after Twilight. Because it had become such a phenomenon, and a silly childish one at that, I wanted nothing more to do with its fame.

Then when The Hunger Games became almost as big a deal as the book series whose author had also praised The Hunger Games itself, I figured maybe I'd try it out even though I might fear becoming another mindless drone of a fan like I was with Twilight for some time.

But in due course, I was able to understand the intricacies of fads despite their short-lived, but prolific timelines. I was introduced to why to this day I don't quite mind being ushered into a particular interest because of societal pressure.

When it comes to being a fan of something, there is bound to be overlap. We like the same TV shows, movies, music, food, art, blah blah blah every other noun in the human language. If we were always striving to be different, to find something new, then many of us would be unsatisfied - searching for something and finding a result that is sub-par, or even worse not finding anything at all.

We complain so much about having to conform to what society expects of us. Teenage girls will read Twilight and The Hunger Games. Boys will watch the Batman film trilogy.

But what's wrong with subscribing to those stereotypes? Sure, when it comes to things like gender roles we have to confront the validity of pigeonholing people based on their demographics. But in the case of entertainment, why not share your interests with millions of other people?

After all, we must admit there is some merit to something if that many people appreciate it. Even Twilight for example, has its prouder points. At the very least, there is an admirable male character in Edward who, however troubled and overly brooding he may be in the movies, is an image of gentlemanliness in much of the book.

The moral of the story is that it really isn't worth it to shy away from something that is socially acceptable simply because we fear we will be labeled for partaking in it. While it's always a concern that we might fall into a groove of accepting the opinions and tastes of others and never considering our own free thought, as human beings we have just as much right to steal each other's interests as we do to create our own.

That's why I'm not so embarrassed by having enjoyed Twilight in its earliest days. Or why I'm proud to say I was a Green Day fan, even when I chose that position during a time when they were at the peak of their 21st century fame. It's why I'm proud that I will forever be an individual not because I strive to be one, but because that's just how it works out. That's pretty cool.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How I get through

How do other people commute for an hour and half each way every weekday for their entire lives? This question occurs to me a lot as I drive to my internship from Orange County to Studio City five days a week.

After I think about it for a second, I realize that people don't commute for an hour and a half each way every weekday for their entire lives. That's just me. Or half of it's me. It's only for the next few weeks.

Still, it makes me feel a sense of entitlement when I'm on the road, a feeling like "I've been here longer, I deserve to get in the fastest lane" or "Hey, you can't cut me off. I've already been on the road for an hour!" These feelings get so strong and debilitating that I often condescend to making loud squealing noises every time something displeases me on the road. That's my version of road rage. I don't scream or give people the finger, I just make loud noises like a cat whose tail has just been stepped on.

But throughout all the toils of driving to and fro day to day, week to week, month to month, there are lights at the end of the tunnel...And I'd like to tell you a few of them.

This is for my reference and for the reference of anyone who has to travel long distances to work, battling against others to prevent oneself from arriving late to the office or not having time to shower before dinner (seriously, these are the troubles I face and I'm sick of them). They serve as a reminder that even in the most excruciating of circumstances, with just a little bit of optimism you can feel 100 percent better.

When I knew I would be driving into work on an interminably trafficked set of freeways this summer, I knew that I needed to properly equip myself to counteract the feeling of lost sanity. That's when I made my iPod playlist.

I compiled 200 songs that I knew could 1. Keep me awake for two hours 2. Never allow me to tire of them 3. Make me want to dance in my car - a welcome distraction when I have to be sitting still for two hours.

And finally make me remember that sitting in traffic isn't the end of the world. Even though sometimes - more often than not - it feels that way.

My playlist has The Beatles and A Goofy Movie,The Supremes and All Time Low. It's a mish-mosh with some of the best ballads in history (i.e. "A Beautiful Mess," Jason Mraz) to the most overenthusiastic pop anthems (i.e. "Halfway Around the World," A*Teens).

And even in moments that I feel like screaming with the tension of a long commute - and admittedly this happens more often than it should - I can drown my thoughts and my concern in the sounds of the varied playlist.

So that covers the drive itself, but I have to say that if I didn't come home to comfort I'd never set off in the first place. Especially what with the anxious screeching I perpetrate day to day.

What is it that has me happy, even excited, to come home every night? What reminds me that perhaps evenings aren't just a time for showering, writing a blog and sleeping the night away?

My dad, that's what. Or who, rather.

Though he works a full day and a late evening, when he's home at night his first thought is at how to treat the both of us. Tonight, he was home only minutes before me, but by the time I walked through the door he'd already started on dinner. I marvel at his patience (a trait that has apparently not been passed on genetically) and his willingness to accommodate (also not a family trait), even after the stress of a long day.

And I rejoice at having a father who makes my anxious nights into comfortable ones.

Tonight was no exception. After trying my best to get around traffic and still only arriving home 10 minutes early, I broke down and needed a hug from my dad. What consistency and what music can never do for me, is what my dad does so easily. Embrace and remind me that even though it may feel like forever, my commute isn't the same as what others might deal with on a day to day basis "forever" (or for as long as they keep a job and their living quarters far away). Eventually my anxiety will be behind me.

Through this experiences I've learned a lot about my patience. For driving, for repetition, for people. But I've also learned about my failures, and how it's often the people sitting right next to us at dinner who we need most when we've lost the ability to control our own patience.

I have my dad. And if I ever wonder how people handle anything longer than an hour commute again, I know I've found my answer. They have the love and support of somebody wonderful as well.