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.)

IMG_20160221_205302

  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

top 15 kpop of 2015

My annual list of kpop that I’ve personally listened to most in 2015.

1/ Call Me Baby, EXO-M 

Every time I watch this video, I cannot get over how amazing everyone looks. SM’s visual game is ridiculous.

2/ Crazy (Guilty Pleasure), Jonghyun

Everyone saw this coming.

3/ Hallelujah, Jonghyun

He shouldn’t be allowed to gyrate his hips this much, ever.

4/ Hurt, EXO-M

5/ View, SHINee

6/ Deja-Boo, Jonghyun

7/ Love Sick, SHINee

I don’t even like this song that much.

8/ Komplicated, TVXQ

Some of the best work TVXQ has put forth in the past few years, almost rivaling Tone.

9/ Love Me Right, EXO-M

10/ Lightsaber, EXO

Okay, maybe I’m becoming a bit of an EXO-L. I’m obsessed with this promotional song (kill me).

11/ Closer, Oh My Girl

As a rookie group, they’re nothing special, but this song is ethereal and quite catchy.

12/ Rise as One, TVXQ

13/ Playboy, EXO

Written by Jonghyun- begging for an official Jonghyun cover.

14/ Mansae, Seventeen

The guy with the purple candyfloss hair. It’s so perverse but I love it. They’re quite a solid rookie group from what I’ve seen, but their songs veer on catchy and annoyingly-catchy.

15/ Exodus, EXO

So 13 out of 15 songs are from SM; I forgot, when did I sell my soul to SM again?

would you like a postcard?

Send me your address via theinnocentlam [at] gmail.com, and I’ll send you a postcard for the new year. To preclude random requests later, I’ll only send postcards to those who request one before January 3, 2016 (23:59 EST).

Happy new year. I swear, that review of Odd is slowly being written (just need to review lives!).

adulting no. 2: shampoo

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.

I have straight, fine hair, prone to oiliness if I don’t wash it every day. Forget about limp hair without volume– which I find to be the most common complaint amongst people with this type of hair– I just want hair that doesn’t get icky and oily and tangled by 5pm. In college, I would often wear braids to cut down on the tangles, and couldn’t wear my hair down or else it would inevitably knot itself. The oiliness would also cause me have incredibly painful bumps in my scalp from time to time.

Because I was relatively broke and focused on school, I shrugged it away for a while. However, with more disposable income now, I began my foray into buying “costs more than $2” array of hair products. I used them all– the typical drugstore brands by the likes of Dove, L’Oreal, Pantene, OGX, John Frieda, RedKen, Tresemme, etc. I also had a brief stint with salon products (my wallet cried very much). They all had a honeymoon period of a few days in which my hair was mercifully oil-free but then it returned to the same old pattern.

While mulling this sad existence at the supermarket shampoo aisle, I noticed that Renpure‘s coconut shampoo and conditioner were on sale. It advertised that it was made without parabens, sulfates, and synethetic colors. All right, I knew I was heading towards the young professional stereotype, so why not dip one more toe in?

Compared to what I had been using before, Renpure was amazing. My hair no longer tangled, but alas, after using it for a few months, it too began give me somewhat oily hair. I switched to another shampoo and conditioner to “reset” my hair, and used Renpure again after a few days– still no luck, the oiliness returned.

Then, like the yuppie I am, I was shopping at Whole Foods and I saw Jason on sale. Again, it was touted as having no “chemicals”, and made with botanical extracts (it smells like herbal tea). I bought the duo for $16, and heck, I threw in a Dolcezza pint of cococut milk gelato for $8 because when you’re at Whole Foods, you throw away the pretense of saving any money.

My problems have been solved.

IMG_20151220_170832

My hair is always straight, easy to comb through– sometimes I even forget to brush my hair in the morning because it is no longer a rat’s nest– and the oil has vanished, along with the painful bumps. Also, even though I haven’t had a haircut in over six months, I cannot feel split ends. I think the harsher chemicals in the industrial hair products were too strong and stripped away the natural moisture in my hair– in turn causing dryness, split ends, and forcing my scalp to produce extra oil. Due to less oil in general, the incidence of acne along my hairline and the painful bumps on my scalp have been at an all-time low. This experience with shampoo has made me think more about the other stuff I’m putting in or on my body– we only ever have one body, and it’s important to treat it with quality products that fit our needs. It doesn’t have to be $8 shampoo from Whole Foods, of course, it could easily be just making this simple homemade shampoo.

Lessons Learned: 

  1. Go off the beaten path and try the “natural” and “without chemicals” products.
  2. Occasionally “reset” your hair from your current regimen by using different products for a few days.