2016 was one of the best years yet with regards to achieving personal goals and growth. I made more time for friends, I got and kept a great new job in a brand new career, I have been reading, and I have been blogging on a regular schedule since I actually committed to doing so in February! (With the brief exception of the change in schedule that I made and then immediately realized was a huge mistake.)
So what can I do in 2017 to continue with my self-improvement? With my personal stake in world-improvement? Here are my CONCRETE RESOLUTIONS that I will resolve to have achieved by December 31, 2017…Read More »
There were a few goings-ons that happened this month but I haven’t talked to you about them yet so here we go! I’m still unsure of how to handle events where I don’t have much to say or show about them, so for now I’ll do these catch-all posts. Let me know if you’d really prefer I do mini-recaps about events like this.
I kicked off December by attending my first National Tree Lighting, which was also the Obama family’s last as the First Family. It was really exciting getting to see the Obamas at their last tree lighting, and it was also great to see the celebrities who turned up as well! Eva Longoria was the host, Bailee Madison was there to speak about a cause she cares about, we were able to hear musical artists like Kelly Clarkson, Chance the Rapper, Marc Anthony, The Lumineers, James Taylor, Garth Brooks, and more. It was freezing by the time we left, but I got to hear President Obama crack some jokes and sing “Jingle Bells’ so it was a pretty jolly time!
The evening after that was my birthday party, which was so much fun and I still am in disbelief that I pulled it off.
I started becoming really fixated on the idea of serving bubble tea at my party, because I wanted a beverage I loved that went well with cake. I got several without the bubbles, knowing that some people still weren’t quite used to them.
I was supposed to attend Yelp Northern Virginia’s holiday party, but I actually got a scary flat tire that I knew would be funny in hindsight as soon as I calmed down. Maybe I’ll tell you about it one of these days…
The following day was my company winter event / holiday party. I’ve been working with my current company since March and I am really happy here. I love the work culture and my coworkers. Meeting the partners who manage the firm and their spouses was great, the food was delicious, and I had a lot of fun with my team.
A few days later, I attended Ben’s company holiday party. I might be a bad luck charm, as this was the first year he didn’t win something at the raffle, and I wasn’t feeling 100% great that evening, but I enjoyed seeing him have fun with his coworkers. (I also discovered that one of his coworkers was one of my classmates back in college! Neither of us are doing psychology work now and, instead, both of us are in tech. Funny how life works like that, huh?) Holiday parties galore!
A day later, I found myself back at the Kennedy Center singing along to holiday music as sung by Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes, accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra for an NSO Pops event. They were great and I was really thrilled we had such huge Broadway stars crooning these holiday songs to us. (I nearly cried when they sang “Love is an Open Door”, which is in no way a holiday song but maybe my favorite song on the overplayed Frozen soundtrack.)
That weekend, I worked the Yelp Maryland ‘Burbs holiday party, where I single-handedly ran the 60-person White Elephant, and then headed to a friend’s house for a belated Friendsgiving-type celebration. It was a very chill time and I got to play with doggies!
It’s a little odd to mention this here but my company has a monthly, all-hands meeting for the entire firm and this month was the best one I’ve ever been to. I found out one of my new coworker’s husband is very close childhood friends with Wang Leehom, and in learning that I also learned that I was the only other Asian female in the room, which is why I was the only person who reacted audibly to learning that little fun fact! (Cue embarrassment at having gasped out loud in front of my whole company…)
On the day of my birthday, I woke up for a 7AM dance party at my first Daybreaker DC event and I kind of loved it so much! That evening, I attended a little Friendsmas celebration, where my friends surprised me with an ice cream cake (those chocolate crunchies!!!) and I just had such a lovely time. There were 3 separate gift exchanges, spiced apple cider, hand-written cards, and a photobooth. My friends know how to throw a party!
As of now, I am in China celebrating the end of this year and the beginning of 2017 with my extended family, whom I haven’t seen in a few years. December is one of those months that always gets wild because it’s the end of the year but also the biggest holiday season of the year. I hope that your month was full of positive excitement as we all gear up for 2017!
How did you wrap up the year?
Are you ready for 2017? On the one hand, I feel very ready but on the other… wow, how is it already 2017 so soon??
Sometimes I shy away from talking about skincare here because I try to keep things gender-neutral for my readers. (Shout-out to my 3 male readers!) But then I remember that literally everyone has skin, it’s not a gendered organ, whatever.
On Black Friday, I got myself a few early gifts in the form of skincare value sets because I am a complete sucker for value sets. (You get such a variety of products! And they’re small so you can test them while you travel! And you don’t feel as much pressure to use a lot if you don’t like it! Yes, lemme at ’em!) I also received some products as gifts from loved ones, so here’s a quick rundown of what I am excited to try out in 2017 when I return from my holiday:
Tatcha: Beauty Essentials Discovery Set
I have been interested in Tatcha as a brand for a little while. (The branding works on me: I want to unlock geisha beauty secrets!) Every time they offer a value set at Sephora, I have a look, but I usually can’t justify the purchase for such little samples of product. I found this set at TJ Maxx, actually, so I am looking forward to trying out the entire set.
So… I am a huge sucker for any value set, but I am especially weak for the Sephora Favorites value sets. (One of the single biggest purchases I ever made at Sephora was their Super Stars set a few Black Fridays ago.) There have been a lot of great ones in the past few months, and I chose this one because it’s a dedicated skincare set that covers a wide variety of functions. (Some of the sets are masks only, moisturizers only, etc. I also haven’t been as excited about the makeup sets because I’m usually most interested in the concealer/tinted moisturizer but the only shade offered in the set is too dark for me.) I originally purchased this set a gift, and then circled around the store and grabbed another one for myself. Sometimes you just have to treat yo face.
Included in this particular Sephora Favorites box is:
Cane + Austin Miracle Pad+
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
Estée Edit by Estée Lauder Pink Peony Overnight Water Pack
Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose Coconut Oil Lip Conditioner
Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist
Lancer The Method: Polish
Lashfood Phyto-Medic Eyelash Enhancer
Tata Harper Purifying Mask
There are a lot of different types of products in here, including some will be very new to me like glycolic acid pads and the eyelash enhancer, so I’m excited to try this set out!
I also have my free Sephora birthday gift to try out. This year, they had the option of a makeup gift from Marc Jacobs, but I chose the skincare gift from Fresh, which included a small soy cleanser and a rose face mask.
Korean Products from a Friend
Christine, being the darling gem that she is, sent me a package on my birthday! (And it arrived on the day of my birthday, great timing!) In it, she included a card that made me cry alongside 3 of her favorite beauty products.
I’ve actually been waiting to try out the Skinfood mask after I finish up the last of the black sugar mask I have now, and I am really excited to try out these Misscha products because I have actually never used an essence or an ampoule in my skincare routine before! As much as I read about skincare, I am actually not a strict adherent to the many steps of the Korean skin regimen and often get very lazy.
I will be traveling over the holidays, so I’m sure my skin will really appreciate some extra love and care when I get back. These products will be great for kicking off the new year by treating my body’s largest organ a little extra nice!
Happy holidays, however you are celebrating! I am very excited that Chankuah begins on Christmas Eve (great for the Christmukkah celebrants!) and ends on New Year’s Eve this year; it makes the holiday season extra special.
Do you have any skincare recommendations for me? My absolute minimum recommendations to everyone is to use a moisturizer every evening and a light SPF every morning. I may have nagged a male coworker of mine the other day, but I think he knows I push sunscreen on everyone out of care!
There were a lot of expectations coming into Rogue One. It is a prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy and it is a standalone film; it is not part of the sequential story and is the first standalone Star Wars movie. It is not Episode VIII; if you’ve been eagerly awaiting the next installment in the story that is ongoing, you’ll have to wait one more year.
Here’s what I knew going into this movie:
The events of Rogue One immediately precede the events of the first Star Wars film: A New Hope.
It provides the backstory that gives a reasonable explanation for the long-persistent fan question: Why was the Death Star so easy to destroy?
This was the most ethnically diverse main cast of any Star wars film, with specific actors being the main draw for me to go see it, as a more casual and recent Star Wars fan.
The main protagonist is a female lead.
The basic premise of the movie is this: At the end of Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke Skywalker destroys the Death Star, a hyper-advanced weapon capable of annihilating entire planets, by blowing up the reactor via the thermal exhaust port. It’s a tight shot, but even so, many fans wondered why such a powerful weapon would have such a fatal flaw. Rogue One seeks to answer that question while sort of almost bringing in the backstory for the line, “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” (Just minus the Bothans… I do not recall seeing many Bothans at all in Rogue One.) There is no opening crawl after “In a galaxy far, far away…” because the events that take place in Rogue One ARE the events that are described in these opening crawls.
The most accurate summary of Rogue One I read in the weeks leading up to the movie’s release was that Rogue One puts the “war” in Star Wars. We don’t really get a feel for the sheer personal cost of war in the original trilogy. (I have heard that the prequels is a lot of politicking, but the war between the Empire and the Rebels has not begun at that point.)
War is ugly.
War is senseless.
War is devastating.
Rogue One isn’t just a space opera; it’s a war movie. Let me warn you now about getting attached to some of the characters: War doesn’t discriminate and people die.
And I appreciate that Rogue One doesn’t really sugarcoat it. Characters die. Even if they’re likeable?! Yes. Even if they’re not bad guys? Yes. Even if they’re on the movie poster? Why should that mean they survive? In fact, I think the only thing I found a little hard to swallow was how one of the villains survived as long as he did in the movie.
I really enjoyed the new cities and planets we were able to explore with Rogue One. Star Wars has been a successful franchise largely because of the fantastic world-building, and I think Rogue One continued to expand the Star Wars universe with places like Jedha, a sandy desert planet that Anakin would have hated with a holy city, and Scarif, a tropical planet that is the scene of a beachfront battle at the climax of the movie.
The new characters were also pretty good. Everyone really loved K-2SO, the former Imperial droid voiced by the inimitable Alan Tudyk. In contrast to droids like R2-D2 and BB-8, who only communicate in beeps and whirs, and C3-PO, who is uptight and not particularly hands-on, K2 has a much more direct flavor of sass and proves himself (itself?) to be a doer.
And yes, of course, I was excited to see Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen in their roles in this movie. Donnie Yen is a huge star (you might know him from Ip Man, if you are into international martial arts film hits) so I’m always happy to see Hollywood embracing Asian talent. Plus, their characters played off each other very nicely.
After seeing the movie and the trailers, I’m left to wonder how hastily they had to do rewrites and reshoots. There are a lot of discrepancies (spoilers in this link) as far as scenes that are in the trailers that not only don’t make it into the movie (iconic trailer lines like “This is a rebellion isn’t it? I rebel“) but don’t make sense with the progression of the story (characters being in settings that they don’t survive to see in the movie). I was a little bit disappointed with the development of the new characters, and I wonder if that is a result of the reshoots or just more poor planning and screenwriting or decision-making as far as what to keep and what to cut. I know that this is a standalone movie and, in the grand scheme of the entire saga, these characters don’t really matter since they don’t appear in any of the core story movies. There were a lot of I did feel that they wasted a lot of talent by doing such a disservice to these characters. Some specific issues I took:
Diego Luna as Andor Cassian was supposed to have some kind of dark, brooding past. I got the impression that I was supposed to know he knows the things he did for the Rebellion don’t really differentiate him from the Empire, but I didn’t get a good sense of that at all. I just saw Diego Luna, a great actor who I haven’t seen in a while, scowling through most of the movie. Obviously, war doesn’t breed many smiles, but he just seemed to be trying to be a character carrying a heavy emotional burden… that he doesn’t know what it is. There is a line that Donnie Yen’s character Chirrut Îmwe says to Andor: (paraphrasing because I don’t have the exact line)
“I’ve been in cages worse than this one. You carry yours in your heart.”
But I just don’t believe it. It felt like the screenplay really didn’t give Diego Luna much depth, other than his brief moment of indecision as to whether he should assassinate someone. And then it was over, and his character’s depth taken away.
Forest Whitaker as Saw Guerrera was also a wasted talent. Although his role in the trailer was fairly prominent, he only has a few brief moments of screentime. Although Mon Mothma talks about how Saw is an extremist who is a source of concern for the Rebel Alliance, we don’t really see any evidence of that other than his rough treatment, fueled by paranoia, towards the defector Imperial pilot. He is just… old… and raspy… and justifiably worried about the Empire sending assassins to take out one of their biggest threats. His relationship with Jyn is also explored within the span of a 1-minute conversation and that’s it? And after all the fighting he supposedly does, he puts up very little fight by his last scene, which came much sooner in the film than I thought. I just had no sense of what his character… was? What he stood for? What motivated him? Who he was in any sense. It was very disappointing.
Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso, who is the architect that designs the Death Star and its fatal flaw, is a small role but, again… underutilized. I don’t mind seeing Mads play a non-villain for once, but I felt like the movie wanted us to make assumptions about his character that they didn’t give us the grounds for making. Everyone seems a little unsure about whether or not they could trust Galen Erso, who is a hostage of the Empire but has, in fact, built this terrible weapon. We are told that it’s difficult to know where he really stands, but we are not shown that.
Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook, the defector cargo pilot, was so underutilized. Riz has a Golden Globe nomination for his amazing work in The Night Of and I just don’t understand how his character was just this nervous guy. That is the defining characteristic of Bodhi: nervous. As happy as I am about the South Asian representation in this movie, with a South Asian character playing a crucial role in defeating the Empire, we still have a bit of a ways to go. (See: the Asian guy playing a mystical monk.)
IN FACT, that is one of my biggest criticisms of this movie: Rogue One tells you things that it should show you, that it should let you learn on your own. One of my least favorite exchanges in the movie goes:
Jyn: “I’ve never had anyone come back for me before.”
Andor: “Welcome home.”
Ugh. I get it, Jyn is forced into exile when her father is taken hostage and he never makes it back to her, Saw takes her in but one day leaves her behind. She hasn’t had a home or something/someone to fight for since the last time she saw her parents. Okay, sure. I actually do buy that.
But show us, don’t tell us with this cringe-worthy cheese-ball dialogue. You don’t have to spoon-feed your audience. This is something that should be in the liner notes for the character in this scene: Jyn looks around at the Rebel fighters and back at Andor, smiling. No one has ever come back for her before. He smiles back and she knows that she has finally found home. This is not something that has to be spelled out and it takes away from this small but significant emotional moment for Jyn.
This is a common problem in a lot of movies: it’s easier to have characters do story exposition through dialogue and to say things that maybe viewers wouldn’t pick up on otherwise. But I rolled my eyes at that scene, not least of all because it began to hint at a wholly unnecessary romantic subplot between Jyn and Andor. I’ve said it a hundred times and I will continue to say it: Romantic subplots are not necessary to make a story more compelling or emotional and, in fact, they often distract from a very compelling and emotional story. Stopromanticsubplots.
I have a lot more to say about Rogue One, but I’ll let you go before the spoilers start, below the jump after the trailer. TL;DR I enjoyed the movie, its more honest portrayal of war, and the great Easter eggs showing how it fits into the existing Star Wars universe and films, but I was disappointed by the underutilization of great actors.
This is the post-reshoots trailer, so these are scenes you will see in Rogue One.
… but I was also born on that day! I turn 25 today! (And I’m delighted to be birthday buddies with Beethoven, Austen, and throwing tea into the Boston harbor!) (Sorry about your parents, Iron Man.)
My birthday often gets lost in a frenzy of end-of-year pushes, holiday plans, and exams — despite the fact that I have not had to take a December exam for over 3 years, the anxiety lives on! By the time I got to high school, I stopped doing larger celebrations for my birthday so that I could focus on studying for midterms and, later in college, finals. (This coincided with the time I stopped having joint birthday parties with my younger brother, whose birthday comes just a few days before mine!)
25 is an arbitrary milestone but a milestone nonetheless. I am at the mid-way point between 20 and 30. I am not longer in my “early 20s” but firmly the most “mid-20s” I will ever be. It’s the quarter century mark and, to me, it feels like the year that my teenage years truly get left behind. There are still times when I start telling people I’m 19 when I stop and realize that I haven’t been 19 for a long time.
25 feels like it might be the year that adulthood stops patiently waiting for me to be ready for it and shows up, ready or not. I had planned to welcome it in with 25 goals for my 25th year, or 25 lessons I’ve learned over the past 25 years…
… but I got a bit tired. (Oops, it’s been an exhausting few weeks.) And I have a resolutions post coming up really soon, so I will shelve sharing my goals until then.
By the time this post goes up, I will be wrapping up a morning rave and emerging into the well-below-freezing DC air. On the one hand, I feel like 25 isn’t very different, and maybe I’ve been ready to be 25 for quite some time. On the other hand, I have this inkling that this milestone will be felt by a marked change in myself.
I hope it’s a positive change.
If you are older than 25, what is some advice you might give to yourself at this age?
If you are younger than 25, what are the things you want to accomplish at this age? Do you have any fun birthday traditions? Mine seem to be… shout-outs to my favorite birthday buddies and avoiding talking about my birthday to see who remembers it. I have learned that this is annoying to some people who don’t like being “tested” and would rather people not be so secretive about their birthdays, but I tell myself that I do this to keep my ego in check.