inadvertently athleisure-ly

Catching up on my Economist backlog, I read an interesting article on how the sales of jeans have been going down, partly due the fact that women are now embracing athleisure– wearing athletic clothing as leisure wear, even if they have no intention to work out. I was surprised there was an actual term for this movement as that meant I was an unwitting disciple.

In college, I had gone through three distinct phases of dressing. First the awkward I’m-still-wearing-Aeropostale-and-actual-colors-i.e.-wardrobe-from-high-school-that-I-put-together-from-copying-others lasted me for a year until I discovered Zara. Then I spent the next two years looking sharp in blazers and skinny pants. My last year I gave up caring and wore athletic wear pretty much every day; on the off days, I would don a pair of Uniqlo skinny pants and a hoodie. Even now, I am wearing running tights despite the fact I have no intention of exercising.

What changed? I suspect the things that changed for me changed for most of the women in the athleisure lifestyle. First, it is trendy to work out, to be healthy, to down that chia drink with gusto! As such, it is socially acceptable for a woman to walk down the street in tight athletic wear and sneakers without being looked down upon as a mess. She is taking care of her body and she looks great without her makeup on, right? Ah, she’s going into Whole Foods now, her life must be so great. Celebrating the body of woman like the temple it is.

I used to wear athletic clothing only when exercising, too. But after exercising, I realized something: that exercise clothes are comfortable. Sounds stupid, but yes, good exercise clothes are constructed in a way that makes moving very easily and will constrain all of those fat pockets if so needed. Generous amounts of clingy and stretchy fabrics makes it so that sizes fit well even slightly too large or too small. So, two points for exercise clothes: they are comfortable and more universally flattering.

As for styles, shapes, and colors, exercise clothes tend to have less choices and gravitate towards being color-blocked and simple. As someone whose choice of store for real clothes is increasingly now Uniqlo, having a limited set of basics is incredibly appealing. Everything mostly matches and doesn’t have the frills or frightening patterns that regular clothes can have. I do appreciate regular clothes and the people who have the mindset to wear them, but the hassle of choosing them as a set and wearing them is sometimes too much for me. If I wear a patterned dress, I need to be in the pattern mindset, by golly, before I can wear it. Most of the time I’m not in the mood to be orange and blue birds nor Victorian lace. Most of the time I want to be nondescript and low-maintenance, which usually means color-blocked, dark and comfortable.

I do think that athleisure is not simply a style, but it a strong lifestyle statement– I don’t care what people think of me if they see me in exercise clothes all the time (and by extension, how well/poorly toned my bottom is) because ultimately, I want to be comfortable. The same can be said of regular clothes, of course, but wearing mainstream regular clothes mostly does not have a negative connotations of being a slob or a wannabe. I like athletic wear and if I am a slob or exercise-wannabe to some, then whatever. I will work hard to please those that are in my purview, but for those who I may see once in a fleeting lifetime.. excuse me while I go put on my running tights.

alone

I still remember in high school, where I used to be bone-crushingly embarrassed when I was alone– sitting alone in the bus, working alone in a group project, spending lunch eating quietly by myself. I hated it. Everyone moved in cliques and I was so jealous that I never seemed to belong to any. I had a few friends here and there, but that was it.

In college, I still felt the same at first, but something was slowly changing. By my senior year, I openly joked to my friends about being a hermit and suddenly, being alone was a relief. After I’ve graduated college, these feelings only have intensified. I turned down an invitation to hang out, saying vaguely “I am busy this weekend.” If I was telling the whole truth, it should have read, “I am busy doing nothing this weekend.” In fact, if I am not that lazy, I will go out to dinner by myself at a sit-down restaurant– not a fast-food restaurant. I like eating alone, too.

Two weeks ago, one of my friends visited me. In outward appearance, we appear to have the same opinions, but we reach them in very different manners, so we often disagree. We also perceive things in markedly different manners, so we both misunderstand and offend each other, not infrequently, as well. We sat in front of the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the Reflecting Pool late at night, just talking about our personalities and somehow tears started to stream down my face. I willed myself not to sob, just let the tears run, and I fell silent from the effort, and I started to reflect.

No one knows the full Michelle, no one will probably ever know the full me.

While I was reflecting on my personality, my friend kept interrupting me and asking me about my life, like how I liked DC and what about my job, etc. I remained stoically silent for a few moments before asking him more than a few times, “Are you uncomfortable with silence?”

In one of my semesters at college, I took a political science course, in which the professor would not force others to speak, but would let the conversation naturally lapse to silence at times. One of the students eventually asked him about it, and he gave a small smile and said as he was raised by a Quaker community, silence was natural to him. It was comfortable for him.

While talking with my friend late at night, I remembered that again. I remembered the sense of wonder and respect for my professor and his ability to savor the silence, to use it to think and not to worry about what others were thinking. I also remembered the deep sense of self I had developed at college, and I realized that I am who I am, and I’ve since accepted it. I don’t like large groups, I can’t go out for more than a few hours without getting tired, I like eating alone, and I like laughing in empty rooms. I like being alone.

I don’t care if no one ever knows the full Michelle. Having my friends’ and family’s support is enough even if they don’t know all the worries and challenges I am facing. Maybe someday I can find someone who I can share all of my feelings with, all the darkness, all the light, and everything in between. Maybe not. All I know for now is that– I like being alone; I am alone.

[musings] using big words

In high school, I was actively encouraged to not use words like salient, salacious, or salubrious. They got in the way of the what I wanted to communicate, the teacher explained. She told me to stop using the thesaurus.

I never used the thesaurus– okay, maybe for words like “good”, but who doesn’t? Everything, for the most part, is natural and spontaneous. People find that when conversing with me in a long conversation, I pause once in a while to find the most exact word, like salient, salacious, or salubrious. I am looking for an exact word, not the most fancy version. If saying healthy will suffice, I will say healthy instead of salubrious. If you are staying in a cottage by the sea to recover from gout, by Jove I will say that your situation is salubrious. Words don’t just carry their definitions, they also carry their connotations. “Annoyed” and “irritated” are listed as synonyms of each other quite often, but most native speakers would agree that they are distinct moods. As it is with “healthy” and “salubrious”.

When I started writing papers at college, I found that I could throw all of this “you can’t use big words” suppression out the window. Professors simply don’t care for the most part– English professors mostly just care if you use it in the appropriate situation. In my professional life as well, I am privileged to be part of a deeply academic atmosphere, highly educated and precise. What was thought to be weird previously, is the norm now.

[review] SHINee, Misconceptions of Us

Misconceptions of Us is a repackaged album with two new songs, Selene 6.23 and Better Off. I have previously reviewed Misconceptions of You (Dream Girl) and Misconceptions of Me (Why So Serious).

SHINee-Misconceptions-part-3

Selene 6.23

Yiruma, a famous Korean pop pianist, composed Selene‘s instrumental. A bit about what I think about Yiruma: he’s not a classical pianist or composer, despite some people insisting on labeling him that way. He may play as well as a classical pianist but for me, Yiruma is the kind of music you’ll hear in the elevator five years down the road. It’s tired and true, and while it may be popular in the short run, it’s nothing new– and so it is with his instrumental for Selene 6.23. Some swelling strings and a spare piano melody; if the song is going to be any good, it has to come from SHINee.

This song is a little different than usual SHINee songs as each individual singer sings more lines at one time– e.g., we do not hear Taemin come in until the second chorus. The chorus is sung by individual voices– mostly Key, Onew, Jonghyun– without a blended “voice” as we usually hear on lead singles. It’s actually quite nice, you can really focus on each singer.

Both Minho and Key were better than they usually are. Minho still sounds carefully controlled but alas is no longer a frog; his voice color more or less blends in with SHINee but you can still tell he is uncomfortably holding himself in a higher register. His voice, for the most part, still sounds from the throat and floats through the head. It makes zero sense that they gave him the high parts of the song when he could just have taken a part from Onew or Taemin; Onew and Taemin would be able to handle the higher register just fine.

At times Key has a problem with ending his phrases– they’re abrupt and without any vibrato, so sometimes it sounds like you’re in front of a warm, crackling fireplace and then you are thrust in the cold. It’s still a problem in Selene 6.23. However, he surprised me in the second chorus, as he starts quite low and sounds eerily like Onew in his breathing, delivery and control (1.53s). I am divided about Key– sometimes he shows pockets of brilliance and then reverts to his bad habits; he’s been like this since debut, even more so lately. It’s like he cared a lot about his singing at debut but has been lax about it in the last few years. It’s troubling.

Jonghyun and Onew kill it, of course, when they trade back and forth and double up in the chorus, it is evident that they are the vocal souls of SHINee. It’s been a while since I have heard their voices so together on a recording– and only them two, explicitly. Selene 6.23 just confirms that their voices blend incredibly well; Onew’s voice especially, has aged well.

Taemin was a weak presence on this album as a whole and while his parts were non-offensive for Selene 6.23 and Better Off, that is all they were. Neither special nor bad. It sometimes puzzles me to see Taemin as a solo artist now because his presence on a SHINee song can sometimes even be less than Key, despite having more lines.

Better Off

Like Selene 6.23Better Off is an inoffensive mid-tempo ballad. Check out Reynah’s piano arrangement instead.

Key, two thumbs down.

Business as usual.

being in control

This will be a short and spontaneous post. I met someone new today and she sincerely complimented me profusely on how in control I seemed of my own life. I was disconcerted because it echoed what a lot of people tell me when they first meet me– that I’m incredibly well-rounded, have great sense of organization and can seem to juggle a lot of things simultaneously while also striving for (and accomplishing) great results. I can also sincerely say that I never fish for compliments; hence my disconcertedness every time.

To me, I guess these things are second nature and I’ve always had a great appreciation for being well-balanced. Where this sentiment came from, I have no idea. It is certainly not from my quite staid Asian family, which predictably values the pragmatic over the philosophic. Yet, someone I turned out that way and I’ve strived to make my education and pursuits come full circle. I have a finger in every pie, and in every major discipline, I at least know the basics.

Everyone is different and we all imbibe knowledge in different ways; I just want to share some of the ways that I’ve used to become an apparently “in control” person. Honestly, I feel inside I’m a mess and a jumble, but to many I seem like a role model.

Read the news. There’s really no way around this. Of course one may focus on the news that one finds interesting but one must stay up to date in the news. It takes years to build up extensive background knowledge from the news, but it is quite worth it.

Something sounds interesting? Follow up on it. Meet others who are interested in it. Read a book on it, etc. For college students: don’t try to load up classes on one field. English major? Take a math class. Computer science major? Take an art history course.

Time management isn’t something you necessarily have or you can acquire really quickly. It’s about developing and learning about how you work best under time constraints and eventually developing a system that you can rely on. Studying, too.

I’ve always been a big proponent of having both quantitative and qualitative activities in my life. For example, no matter how many math or economics course I was taking, I was always playing music, whether in lesson or a chamber music group. I think it’s important to pursue your passions in both sides even if you are particularly bad at one side (I’m a subpar musician but I stick it out anyway). Music has been a huge part of my life and a big coping and relaxing mechanism over the years. Catharsis in music is wildly different than the satisfaction from a problem set or program well done. Silo-ing ourselves off to only feel one kind of satisfaction? Sounds like a very hollow existence.

updated upcoming posts; submit your favorite SHINee cover/collab to be reviewed!

Bad news first, I will no longer be posting comments on Key’s We Got Married. SHINee’s OST compilation review is still coming, but it’ll probably be on the backburner.

I’m adding a few new kpop projects:

  1. The Misconceptions of Us review
  2. Lucky Star review
  3. SHINee cover & collaborations review

My dear readers, I need your help for number 3! I’ve been so out of the kpop loop that I have missed many things (last night I just watched the sobfest that is the 2013 Melon Music Awards). Please submit any and all SHINee covers or collaborations you’d like me to address, like this excellent suggestion for Gloomy Letter in my ask.fm. Of course, you may submit more than one suggestion.

Please submit your suggestions here

[review/kpop] ToHeart’s 1st Mini Album

This is sort of, kind of, most likely, the worst duo project I’ve heard since Eunhyuk and Donghae’s album RIDE ME. INFINITE’s Woohyun and SHINee’s Key, though they are great friends in real life and have great chemistry in the music videos, their singing and rapping do not mesh well. They do not complement each other: they neither lessen each other’s weaknesses nor strengthen each other’s specialties. To be fair, it’s hard to balance with a voice like Key’s. All too obviously, this mini-album fails the balancing act and even raises the question, did they even attempt to create balance?

The production also seems off-quality– I’ve been told that it’s not the usual slew of SM producers backing this, rather from Woollim Entertainment. I’ve never really enjoyed an INFINITE song, and I suspect it may be the unfinished and corny sound that that Woollim tends to favor. Rather than SM’s style of slick pop, Woollim gives off a safe-family vibe.

In this review, I will only be talking about the album and will not review the music videos or the lives, though I may mention them in passing. Be warned, this review is more crass than you would typically read because I couldn’t find much to like about this mini.

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Intro

I can hear it now, the waves of corniness with a big side of unnecessary piano and bass comping in the background. Can I make it through without gagging? $10 on me not being able to make it to the end.

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