A deep sadness

Some thoughts

I was raised in a diverse place where I knew plenty of people who looked like me, and who didn’t. I attended a diverse college, where again, I knew plenty of people who looked like me, and who didn’t. I had the opportunity to work in a fantastic agency who valued women and was incredibly international. I then was accepted to graduate school at a top university in which my cohort was diverse and the general student body as well.

I can only recall a few instances of overt racism in my life: things like people asking “What’s my name in Chinese?” or “Since you’re Asian, you must be good at math” or “You must know some good tea!” or “You must know where the noodles are in this supermarket.” Well-meaning, but ill-informed; easily fixable by a firm but friendly statement why such utterances are wrong.

I thought I knew America– a population of generally kind, decent, generous, and tolerant people. After the 2016 election, I am struggling very hard to still believe in this America. An America who knowingly elected someone who is a bigot, sexist, and racist– someone who is guaranteed to work hard to infringe on my rights as a woman, a first-generation immigrant, and as a person of color. An America where 50% of the voting electorate stayed home– this passivity at least as worse as actively voting for the bigot. An America where, even with an amazing and historic choice for President, chose to stay at home or elect one of the most ill-qualified and volatile candidates in history.

With anguish, I realize I lived in a bubble, and now I must come to terms that the America who elected this bigot is the true America that I live in and will continue to. America has come so far in many respects, but there still so much work to be done. As people of color, and as women, we must realize the strength in our numbers. America may still have a small majority of whites, but demographics are quickly changing. We already have powerful voices, if only we would speak up.

What to do next

Over the course of this terrible day, I’ve thought continually what I can do as someone, who only wants to live a normal life, can do to change this. I’m a student, I will never run for political office, I do not have much money. What can I do? There are many things– stand up for those you see being harassed (white allies, we need you more than ever)– keep informed– keep engaged and informed in national and local politics– whenever you can, engage with people who are different than you– volunteer for and donate what you can to organizations that help to protect those whose rights are under attack. I cannot stress enough to be engaged in politics at both the local and national level– vote in every election, contact your state representatives, your state governor, your city mayor, etc. Anyone, everyone. Local government is a vital part of the governing process and affects us, much more deeply, in many respects, than the federal government.

Remember, on November 6, 2018 all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested.

Bless you, and stay safe– especially my fellow sisters and brothers of color. I am always here to talk if you need it, or to lend an ear.

Life Barrels On

Sometimes I feel like I am stuck in a barrel going downhill, feeling all the bumps acutely as I race down the hill, unable to fully control my speed or where I end up. But then, as I reflect upon that, I feel silly– I am the one who put myself in this situation, and I better prepare myself as best I can for the bumpy ride or do some exit maneuver.

After a ridiculous month-long trip to Japan, Korea, and China, I moved to the Great Lakes region (not quite Midwest!) this summer. Right now, I currently am a first-year in an economics PhD program. It’s been fast-paced and incredibly busy. I see the same 30 or so people, day-to-day.

I do think about this blog from time to time, and I’d like to take care of some of the backlog (as I say all the time). I still follow SHINee quite closely, so it’s not like I don’t have the material! I hope you all have been doing well.

#ImWithHer, and some thoughts

Election has been unprecedented in so many ways. The good– a highly qualified woman who is poised, knowledgeable, and ready to be commander-in-chief is running as a major party candidate. The bad– a deeply unqualified man gets to run against her as her equal, despite a long and rich history of disrespecting women, people of color, and in general, any people that happen to cross his path when things do not go his way.

This presidential election has dredged up the ugly facade of America that’s always been there, just hiding behind the surface. In a way, I’m glad that it got revealed– in many ways, it’s much better than believing the shiny veneer that everything is all right. It’s not.

For years, picking up force during the 2008 elections and beyond, the Republican Party has condoned ignorance and demagoguery in their Party, and have allowed some of the highest politicians of the land to spout nonsense– the most extreme example, their 2016 presidential candidate. Without a resounding condemnation of their candidate, they implicitly lend credence to their candidate’s racism, bigotry, and sexism. Suddenly, the racists, bigots, and sexists who support The Yam became “mainstream”. They are not. I strongly believe in the goodness and generosity of the greater American public. However, the Republican Party chose to pander to that part of the electorate, helping their rise and destructive domination of mainstream politics. To put it crudely, they have made their bed and must sleep in it.

There are many respectable Republicans who are willing to work with Democrats, but now are demonized because of the radicalism that the Republican Party knowingly embraced. Conservative (or liberal) values does not mean one must have their way all the time. That is how our democracy was built– on compromise, not on one party rule.

I hope this election brings about the return of reason and compromise. And so, #ImWithHer.

 

brief thoughts on EXO’luxion in Newark, NJ

Surprise! Michelle isn’t dead as a kpop fan. To the contrary, she spent $80 on a ticket to see EXO on February 21, 2016 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Worth it? Yes. Bone-tired? Yes. Going to make a random bulleted list because I can’t be bothered to write a coherent article? Yes.

(May be updated as I think of more things. Feel free to ask questions.)

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  1. Michelle-Patricia shippers alert: I did go with Patricia. I feel sorry for the teenagers around us having to listen to our sarcastic sniping and a lot of my ironic laughter.
  2. Never have I felt so strongly that Chen is my husbando.
  3. The songs were all sung in Korean, which was irritating, because especially in their earlier songs, Baekhyun gets all the (high) parts that Chen would normally sing in Chinese. So while Chen did feature quite prominently in the concert, would frequently be at the front of the dance formations, he actually didn’t sing as much as I’m accustomed to hearing.
  4. The production quality of the video interludes was pretty fantastic. There was this one interlude that showed them dancing to dubstep which accented their “abstract” dance moves with geometric shapes. As someone who loves that sort of geometric nonsense, it was quite cool.
  5. Chanyeol talks a lot and tends to go on (and on). He was also obsessed with throwing the confetti around and you could tell some of the members weren’t having it. Suho and Chanyeol seem to know the most English (they spoke the most in English), but it wasn’t really much beyond the standard “What’s up New York?” We’re in New Jersey. “Are you ready?” Rabid fangirl screams all around. There was a translator, and from what Patricia told me, was not that good, more like a random person on the SM team who spoke English the best.
  6. Chen had this really terrible compliment at the end, “You are all beautiful like skyscrapers.” Yeah, totally my husbando- someone who mangles praise but smiles and then you know the world is somewhat not evil.
  7. Upon reflection, I realize that the EXO show isn’t actually that fancy. There’s the lights, standard confetti, some props (piano, a stage on top of the stage, a few chairs, “changing room”), but it’s quite minimal of a production. It’s more about the band members, really, rather the whole set taken together.
  8. It was really hard to hear the singing- even when they were lip-synching, the voices were hard to make out. It quieted down some during the last few ballads but the crowd was extremely noisy.
  9. Girls screaming at the crotch grabs during Call Me Baby. #always
  10. FYI. EXO’lution doesn’t allow backpacks- even small ones. I think it’s safe to assume this for all SM concerts in the future.
  11. Chen had the best high note. Not that he’s my bias, or anything.
  12. Kai is ridiculous at dancing. Even from so far up, you could still tell how sharp his movements were. Sorry, Sehun. There’s a reason why you’re in the back. It was actually sort of funny to see the comparatively more sloppy choreography for things like Playboy which they don’t do as often as contrasted with things like Growl which they know so well.
  13. I would actually pay good money to hear EXO in a smaller, more intimate space. DO and Chen are some of my favorite singers in the kpop industry right now, and it’s a shame to hear fans screaming over their lines (I love Chen too, all right? But think of him seriously as a singer first).
  14. One of the video interludes ambiguously/tangentially mentioned the leaving of the three EXO members. Surprisingly, despite my salty self, I found it touching and was ready to wave money at EXO’s souvenir stands. The video said cheesy things like, “We are grateful to receive your love- we won’t rest until we’ve returned all your love to you.” Then the end of the concert dragged on for another 45 minutes, and I wasn’t ready to wave my money away so much after that.

adulting no. 3: little household things

adulting is a series on ilam that talks about doing new “adult” things, and what I’ve learned, which hopefully, may help you navigate adulting as well.

Some sundry things I’ve picked up:

  1. Don’t sign an apartment lease without looking at the apartment in-person first. If you can, try to visit places before signing a lease. If you cannot visit beforehand, sublet for a month or two, and spend those two months exploring neighborhoods and visiting places to live. The neighborhood counts for a lot, and it’s not always easy to discern what type of neighborhood you’ll like just by browsing the internet. Apartment photos may also obfuscate the “not-so-nice things,” so it’s best to visit in-person and confirm for yourself.
  2. There’s no substitute for doing a thorough clean-up at least once a month. It’s important to take the time to do a thorough cleaning regularly, as cleaning gets much harder over time, and sometimes impossible without professional tools. The bathroom is especially susceptible to this, because of the moisture and humidity that encourages mold.
  3. Toilet bowl tablets: I despise cleaning toilets. With a toilet bowl tablet, it disinfects and keeps the toilet bowl cleaner between the more-thorough cleaning. Get the uncolored ones, because sometimes the colored ones (most often it’s blue) can sometimes stain your toilet if not flushed enough.
  4.  A microwave is dead useful for things other than Easy Mac. Many nights, I come home around 8pm, and still have some things to do, so I can’t spend that much time preparing my food. I keep on hand an assortment of fresh and frozen vegetables, and I can steam them in the microwave, put in a bit of seasoning, and have a delicious dinner ready in less than 10 minutes (paired with the rice that I’ve kept warm in my rice cooker). I also have to clean less things- I generally microwave food in the same dish I eat with. Microwave cooking isn’t sad and can be quite healthy and fresh, unless you’re microwaving things like Hungry-Man dinners.
  5. A winning combination for hot-water lovers: S’well and a hot water boiler. The regular-sized S’well is $35 for most designs– while a little steep, I’ve found it to be a reasonable price for how it performs. As it claims, I’ve regularly filled the bottle with hot water and it still piping hot after 12 hours. It never smells, does not get hot (except for the cap, since obviously the insulation is weakest there), and the water never tastes of metal. I was skeptical at first, because all the hot water thermai I’ve ever had lost significant heat after an hour or so. S’well has turned me into a believer.
  6. Sign up for accounts/emails/mailings from stores you visit regularly. Grocery stores and pharmacies are the prime examples. They will alert of you sales and coupons. Every little bit saved is something, after all. Some will even give you personalized offers according to your buying history.
  7. If your credit is good, (prudently) sign up for other credit cards in order to take advantage of their signing bonus and other rewards. This one is from one of my colleagues, who told me that since he knew he would be spending a lot of money on graduate school applications, he opened up another credit card to get their signing bonus. Most bonuses are something like this: spend $x in the first y months, get $z reward. The new credit card that I received also has revolving reward categories with higher reward amounts, so I can allocate my spending more optimally to maximize my rewards. You don’t need to stick to one credit card, it’s fine to use more than one.
  8. When possible, use credit cards instead of debit cards and cash. Three reasons: (1) Rewards are usually non-existent or smaller on debit cards. (2) Debit cards are directly linked to your checking account. If a fraudulent transaction goes through, the money in your checking account will be missing. By law, it eventually will be “back”, but in the short-term, you’ll be out of this money. However, with a credit card, your money hasn’t already been “spent.” Earlier this year, I had a series of fraudulent transactions, which ranged from a dollar to the hundreds (all declined, because Capital One caught the first suspicious transaction right from the start). I was very glad that I hadn’t linked anything to my debit card, because who knows how fast my debit card company would catch these sorts of transactions? By then, I could have been out a few thousand dollars. (3) Lastly, by using a credit card as opposed to cash, expenses can be easily tracked by looking at the statements.
  9. Track your expenses (somehow). I use Mint and the various services my banks provide. If you prefer not to do things online, you’ll have to use a system involving paper and pen. Any way you choose to do it, you need a good record for when you file taxes and when you want to do some budgeting. Like cleaning, it’s best to set aside time each month to look over your finances and straighten it up, or else it gets hard to remember what happened and even muster up the motivation to “straighten it up.”
  10. Life’s too short to frequently be shopping for flimsy clothing at fast-fashion places like H&M and Forever21. It may be a higher upfront cost, but with the cost spread out over a longer period of time, it’s more cost-effective to buy clothing that is well-made and will last longer than a few washes. Lately, I’ve really liked Everlane, and Uniqlo is always a perennial favorite.

a year and a half out

It’s been a year and half since I’ve graduated from W. That W. I meant to do some sort of an update post on my fifth blog anniversary, but I completely forgot.

Lots of things have happened this year and half, and while I can enumerate all of them, I still feel static. When talking to friends and catching up, it’s hard for me to tell them about my life, because I feel so boring. I like to think I have a rich inner life– but it is a boring life.

I’ve noticed small things a lot more since graduating; I’ve become acutely aware of even the small injustices. I’ve become the stereotypical Wendy, the one that perpetually says, “I’m offended.”It’s getting harder and harder to disguise my disgust and disdain, and I’ve recently come to express, to stand up for these feelings.

Ego and privilege are very real things; there are good people and there are crappy people. Mostly, there are good people who say crappy things. I’m one of those people. Political correctness is a state of unending effort to improve oneself, no one is natural at it.

There is an expression: “bounded by rationality.” Really, now.

[review] Jonghyun’s The Collection “Story Op.1”

2015 has been a big year for solo Jonghyun– he recently gave an interview, in which he said that if he were not a singer, he would be a composer. Jonghyun, you’re already a composer, and actually, not a bad one. Some (Michelle) would say, even a good composer.

1/ End of a Day

When I heard this for the first time, I knew this was the album of ballads that Jonghyun said he was afraid of releasing during Crazy (Guilty Pleasure) promotions. Perhaps not novel, it is clean, fresh, and delicately phrased. A safe, successful first dip.

2/ U & I

More in the style of his BASE album, U & I is lethargically cheery. I am also a big fan of how “bare” the background is, a bit of percussion, a little keyboard synthesizer– the kind of song perfect for a live band. I’ve always thought of Jonghyun’s alter-ego as more punk rock than anything, but after his BASE promotions and now this album, Jonghyun seems to rest more on the indie-instrumental-R&B-soul side.

His “Okay” in the beginning tantalizingly almost sounds like the beginning to EXO’s Playboy.

3/ Like You

This song has bit of an R&B influence; it could as easily have been part of SHINee repertoire if it was “jazzed” up with some electronic synths. The highlight of the song is Jonghyun’s harmonization at 1.21s.  Continue reading