A Manchester Masterpiece

Watch Manchester by the Sea. I feel comfortable making such a bold demand because I can confidently place this movie “up there” on a mental list of fascinating films.

If you’re the kind of person that prefers to go into a movie without prior knowledge and opinions to taint your thoughts, then stop right here.


manchesterAlright, you’ve been warned. Here goes!

Turns out that I am unsure where to start because of all the sub-themes and emotions buried in the layers of this film.

Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a taciturn Bostonian custodian who gives off an initially funky vibe. The first few minutes of the movie are mostly silent: Lee shovels snow, Lee watches TV alone, Lee goes to a local bar, Lee gets in a fist fight at the bar.

What is this guy’s deal?

Lee’s backstory is revealed in the peppering of back-flash snippets during the two-hour stretch. Yeah, I quickly changed my mind about him.

Unrestrained display of raw moments lends this film its poignant emotional punch. There is no shying away from showing agonizingly awkward silences between uncle and nephew or panic attacks induced by frozen meat.

I’m no expert but I think it’s safe to suggest that Michelle Williams qualifies for an Oscar nomination. The scene in which she encounters Lee near a general store parking lot left me speechless.

screenshot-2017-01-04-17-01-21At several points in the film, Lee is shown driving quietly alone. There’s nothing to it. Nothing interesting happens; he just drives and occasionally uses the turn signal.

Such familiar slowness reminds me of French film style. Perhaps this could annoy an impatient viewer, or make the film seem unnecessarily drawn out. But I appreciate these scenes because it makes the story seem more down to earth. Ordinary people don’t simply cut from one location to the other, driving must happen in between. It provides for a more fluid narrative.

So I have to disagree with critic David Eldestein, who calls the film draining (but also worth seeing). The slowness is actually refreshing. Lee still goes through the daily motions of life. And quite frankly it helped me relax between intervals of such intense emotional tension. These moments coupled with Patrick’s comic teenage shenanigans keep the movie fresh and lively despite the dark subject matter.

screenshot-2017-01-04-17-02-41I am far more in sync with the Chicago Sun-Times’s claim, “What a miracle of a film. Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan delivers the cinematic equivalent of a great American novel. Casy Affleck and Michelle Williams give career-best performances… If this film receives anything fewer than 10 Oscar nominations, it’s an injustice.”

Again with the French film style, the movie ends with an indefinite resolution. Gosh, everything about this movie is frustrating yet genius at once.

I juggle with my interpretations of some characters- Lee, Randi, and Patrick in particular. I was so quick to make judgement calls about them. He’s insensitive, she’s uptight. The film progressed to unravel their stories that shattered by initial judgements. I was proven gravely wrong about each character with each new bit of information revealed about them. I took this is a lesson I should apply beyond the movie.

I think I’ve decided on the “meaning” of this film; but I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow, and then change my mind again the day after that.

screenshot-2017-01-04-17-01-21This is exactly what constitutes a masterpiece though. It sticks with you long after you’re no longer in its presence.

So please, in case I have not made myself clear: watch. the. movie.


The Wonders of Vesta Minor

Vesta Minor crawls with dinosaur life forms, bulbous plants oozing with jelly consistency, fast growing fungi, massive fish with dragonfly wings. You know, just the usual.

screenshot-2017-01-03-00-30-21Scavengers is the most impressive animation I have come across in a long time. The eight minute clip featuring alien life forms and fantasy landscapes was released this Christmas Eve. The clip immerses viewers into an other-worldly (heh, literally) experience and introduces an entire cast of 2D and 3D animators.

Although many artists worked on the animation for Scavengers, at the core it remains the brainchild of Charles Huetter and Joseph Bennet. The two wrote, directed, animated, and created background art for the piece.

screenshot-2017-01-03-00-32-12screenshot-2017-01-03-00-32-45My favorite scene (2:00): a mushy yellowish egg is slit open. The severed egg reveals a plush, fleshy blue interior. Nestled inside a crevice of the lush aqua womb lies a naked alien form in fetal position. He awakens, blinks, stares. He climbs out of his nest and navigates the slippery surface. His body begins to shrivel and wither as he ages. He tugs on a few juicy levers, sighs, hoists his fragile body back into a crevice, shuts his eyes. End scene.

The Vesta explorers’ mission is never resolved in the film. The animation closes with a sudden shift to a city scene brimming with pigeons, construction workers, old men milling about, a hipster on a bike, dogs on their daily walks, baby strollers.

Although I am unsure of what the purpose for this sudden shift really was, I can sure speak to how I interpreted this. After being immersed in the strange wonders of the planet writhing with inexplicable organisms, the abrupt cut to the “real world” allowed me to contemplate how very peculiar life on our own planet is.

This makes me think of a scene from the movie Boyhood when Mason asks his father

“Dad- There is no, like, real magic in the world, right?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, like, elves and stuff. People just made that up.”

“Well I don’t know. I mean what makes you think that something like elves are more magical than like, like, a whale? You know what I mean? I mean, what if I told you a story about how underneath the ocean there was this giant sea mammal that used sonar and sang songs and it was so big that its heart was the size of a car and you could crawl through the arteries? I mean, you’d think that’s pretty magical right?”

“Yeah. But like, right this second, there’s no, like, elves in the world right?”

“No. Technically, no elves.”

Charles Huetter’s vimeo brims with his personal projects. I join others in finding that his animation resembles that in Adventure Time or the Amazing World of Gumball. I find this especially true for Tonk’s Island, in which he designed all of the backgrounds.


The Jump

His first LNWC film, The Jump (2013) is probably my favorite of his clips. One of his clips, Every Night, strikes me as similar to work done by animator Joseph Bennet. The hairy creature teetering on gangling legs in a dark forest both repulses me and draws me in. It’s an awkward limbo position between fear and curiosity of the animal.

Bennet’s vimeo clips are consistently more disturbing, uncomfortable, and twisted that Huetter’s. Donna features a (demented) older woman disrupting and abusing animals while cheerfully chattering about nothingness and giggling right along.



A chubby boy shoots down a sparrow in taKE ME TO THE OTher side. The sparrow proceeds to compliment the human on his aim, chirp a little song, excrete waste, and laugh manically.

Anonymous Mortician begins with an yellow-toothed balding man assuring viewers “I’m not a necrophiliac, is that okay?” Totally normal disclaimer to make before launching into a story. Not concerning at all.

Bedtime Stories with Abraham Willosby Episode I and II hold an unsettling quality as a wealthy elderly fellow shares “bedtime” stories of betrayal and death without resolution, after which he enjoys a hearty laugh.

Generally, I enjoy short films created by multiple animators more than individual clips. I find that the stories serve a purpose beyond crafting a surreal experience that unsettles viewers, as seems to be the point in much of Bennet’s solo work.

Short animation films are definitely underrated. They have a certain punch that a two hour movie could never quite possess. Perhaps its the pressure to emit a meaningful message under a time crunch. Maybe short animation films place the aesthetic quality of picture on equal footing with the plot. Whatever it is, I like it and I wish more of it was readily available and circulated.


Background from Tonk’s Island


Chicanx murals II

In my previous post, we explored the links between Chicanx murals and urban renewal. However, murals’ functions extend far beyond denouncing the freeways and Chavez Ravine.

Closer analysis of murals lends nuanced insight into Chicanos’ struggles and efforts to counter the racial narratives that have been imposed by the dominant group in society. Through murals as a form of artistic expression, Chicano artists have striven to reclaim their history while rejecting the negative stereotyping or discrimination imposed by Anglo-American racial scripts.

These traits are prominent in the following three Chicanx mural pieces that I will cover.

Leo Tanguma’s 1973 mural Rebirth of Our Nationality in Houston, Texas features a man and woman emerging from a red flower which sits on a pile of skulls. The man and woman appear to be reaching outwards, struggling to grasp the hands of anguished and shackled figures. Across the top of their heads floats a banner, unraveled to read “To become aware of our history is to become aware of our singularity.” All figures within the mural are Chicano, and the anguished figures represent the “multiplicity of Mexican peoples are the complexity of their history and struggles” in both Mexico and the U.S. The powerful combination of text and image communicate Tanguma’s message that it is crucial for Chicanos to “become aware” of or learn their true history rather than accept the widely circulated racial scripts constructed by Anglo Americans.

downloadThe composition’s dramatic thrust and violent expressionism of the characters pays homage to Mexican muralists Siqueiros and Orozco. Thus, even in the style of the mural’s execution, Tanguma references past muralists who heavily influenced Mexican artistic expression. The mural seems to throb with agency as the central Chicano man and woman strain their bodies in an attempt to connect with other members of their community, therefore forging the bond and singularity as a group that is mentioned in the banner above head. The term “rebirth” in the title of the mural delineates how Tanguma formulates a counter script that encourages Chicanos to discover their own history rather than accept norms established by a racist society, and utilize this knowledge to create a support network.

greatwalllist-thumb-600x327-61665A guest lecture by Kaeyln Rodriguez, a UCLA graduate student whose research focuses on artistic expression by black and brown people in the U.S., opened my eyes to a veritable mural masterpiece. The Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), in which Rodriguez is involved in also lends further insight into the backstory and mission of The Great Wall of L.A.  

The half mile mural is broken into sections- prehistoric, Spanish arrival, 1910, World War I, 1930, 1940, and 1950. Within pre-historic California, a white hand that emerges from the ocean disrupts the serene atmosphere of Native American homelands. Spanish arrival is marked in the mural’s imagery of Spaniards on a sailing ship, with emaciated and anguished captives on the lower deck. This symbolism counters the greater mainstream notion that white settlers’ takeover of Native American land was a peaceful and justified process, instead exposing the unharmonious disruption of white settlement. (Click on images for detail). 

The mural’s coverage of World War II features a man bleeding to death because a hospital refused to treat him for blood loss. “The iron hand, symbol of the dehumanization that racial discrimination brings, is shown cutting off the flow of blood, cutting off life.” As the mural extends onwards, Baca addresses themes of women’s role in World War I, racial segregation, unnecessary violence of police brutality, the plight of Mexican Americans during the Great Depression and deportations, dehumanizing police actions during zoot suit riots, and more. All of these narratives meld together to directly counter white racial narratives which have continually reconstructed such events to reflect justified and peaceful exchanges rather than unacceptable and discriminatory altercations.

50s_teamBeyond the physical images produced in the mural, the actual making of the piece itself highlighted a sense of unity amongst racialized groups. Over 400 youth and families from diverse socio-economic and racial backgrounds contributed to this mural. For instance, an American-Indian boy painted pre-historic California, Black-American artist Ulysses Jenkins designed a black perspective of 1948 Bandaide, and Gary Takamoto designed the Chinese segment featuring railroad construction. Overall, The Great Wall of L.A. is both visually and symbolically a manifestation of interracial harmony and a history that represented women and minorities who were otherwise invisible in popular educational resources like textbooks.



Chicanx artists like Leo Tanguma and Judy Baca not only achieve aesthetically pleasing murals, but manage to emit visual images of narratives that challenge the twisted and reconstructed racial narrative that the dominant group- Anglo-Americans- established through from of popular education and mass circulation. Leo Tanguma urges Chican@s to become aware of the truths of their history and treatment in the U.S., and harness this knowledge to unity the community. Judy Baca casts minorities as leading roles throughout the historical frames of The Great Wall of L.A. to challenge racial scripts which cast minorities as savage criminals and justified white people’s exploitation of such groups.


Zoot Suit Riots

Although history is a crucial element of Chicanx muralism, this does not fetter artists from looking towards the future. Queer Aztlan, a concept introduced in an essay “Queer Aztlan: The Re-formation of Chicano Tribe” by Cherrie Moraga, is manifested in a mural commissioned by Galería de la Raza and designed by Manuel Paul. The 2015 San Francisco mural features a gay couple, a lesbian couple, and a trans man framed in chains and flowers done in classical cholo Chicano style. Across the trans man’s chest rests a banner that reads “Por Vida” meaning “for life.” In this mural we see the depiction of a desire for a queer Aztlan: a Chicanx homeland that could embrace all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.


However, the mural has been defaced twice by people who disagree with this notion of a more inclusive Chicanx ideology. Chicanx murals have historically and consistently overcome obstacles such as urban renewal imposed by Anglo Americans, and it is now time for the murals to fight homophobia and other forms of discrimination within the community. Murals must now strive for acceptance and providing visual depictions of an all-encompassing and welcoming Aztlan.


Header Image: 1848 Bandaide


Goldman, Shifra. “Mexican Muralism: Its Social-Educative Roles in Latin America and the

United States.” The Chicano Studies Reader: An Anthology of Aztlán, 1970-2000. By Chon A. Noriega. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Publications, 2001. N. pag. Print.

Rodriguez, Kaelyn. “Case Study of Mexican Muralism.” Chicanx Studies, 7 November 2016,

Broad Art Center, University of California Los Angeles, CA. Lecture.

“The Great Wall – History and Description.” SPARCinLA. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.

Chicanx murals I

For my first quarter UCLA, I was one among 800 eager students who was able to squeeze myself into the highly demanded course- Chicano/a Studies 10A taught by Professor Genevieve Carpio.

bork.jpgFirst off, what is a Chicanx (gender-neutral term) person? Well, that’s tricky because what it means to be Chicanx varies between individuals. For the sake of simplicity, however, the umbrella definition is this: Any person of Mexican origin or descent who resides in North America.

Professor Carpio approached the vast field through three segments- history, culture, and visual art. Guess what my favorite part was? Visual art? Wow, how did you know? Those are some wild psychic powers.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a little blip of studies on Chicano muralism’s relation to urban renewal programs and how it relates to the field as a whole.

Chicano murals are some of the most beautiful types of street art I have ever seen, but there is still more to them than meets the eye. The meanings behind each are about as layered as an onion. Chicano muralists don’t draw only from an aesthetic standpoint, but reach back deep into Chicano history, depicting specific moments or narratives that have shaped the Chicano experience. One such event consists of urban renewal.

urbanrenewal042867Urban renewal describes a set of programs that took place during the postwar period which were intent on developing “blighted” areas, yet often let to the displacement of Chicanx communities. Urban renewal impacted many Chicanx communities by creating physical barriers within the barrios (or destroying them completely) which resulted in the division and fragmentation of those preexisting communities, limiting their access to resources and to one another. It took shape under various forms including the construction of freeways or total remodeling of poorer communities.

Freeways: In 1963, the Interstate 5 bisected a Chicano barrio in Logan Heights, San Diego at a site that had been set aside to serve as a park for that community. However, Chicano murals began to appear on the pillars of the freeway almost a decade later. Now the park consists of a colorful blasts of pigment decorating the concrete pillars. Many of the murals reference claims to self-identity by conveying strong links to heritage, race, and ethnicity- whether it be Native American, Spanish, American, or other roots. (Click on images for detail). 

chavezChavez chavez1Ravine:  The incident of Chavez Ravine during the 1950s serves as the archetype for expressing the idea that urban renewal fragmented, displaced, and destroyed Chicanx communities. The government targeted the interracial and populated Chicanx area known as Chavez Ravine for complete neighborhood remodeling and forced the locals to vacate the area. However, plans fell through when the main architect, Frank Wilkinson, became preoccupied with accusations that he was a communist and the project was abandoned. Instead, the land was sold to the Dodgers and the Dodger Stadium parking lot now sits atop the homes of the Chavez Ravine residents who were promised an improved built environment Multiple interviewees within the PBS documentary “Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story” explain that the attempted urban renewal of Chavez Ravine caused disconnection between countless Chicanx families and friends who were displaced and moved away from one another.

Judy Baca’s LA mural Division of the Barrios & Chavez Ravine offers strong commentary in unveiling the destructive effects of urban renewal on Chicanx communities.

1ed36691caf0be7c5246d2a19e57a407The mural features a looming Dodge stadium, bulging aggressively forward from the hill on which it sits; the hill that was once home to a neighborhood of mixed races- one being Chicanos. A family is broken up, mother and son on one side and father and son on the other, and constricted by the freeway. The adults desperately reach out to one another, yet fail to connect. The children, however, look at one another with skepticism, refusing to reach out. Baca demonstrates how urban renewal isolated younger Chicanx generations from one another.

The family symbolizes the greater Chicanx community and, as explained by Avila in his essay “The Folklore of the Freeway: Space, Culture, and Identity in Postwar Los Angeles,” the destructive division that an urban renewal project like that of the Chavez Ravine brought upon communities.

juday-071Through her work, Baca refuses to remain silent or overlook the ordeal and creates a powerful counter point that insists on the resurfacing and recognition of an event that profoundly altered Chicanx barrios through fragmentation, isolation, and even total destruction. Judy Baca’s massive mural reveals Baca’s denunciation of urban renewal and insist on exposing the isolating effects in bore on Chicanx communities.

Chicanx murals like these brim with the painful history marked by urban renewal, a narrative often overlooked by educational institutions or mainstream Anglo society.

I don’t know about you, but I sure didn’t know any of these things impacted the Chicanx community until now. Why did it have to take 16 years of education for me to be exposed to this history?

This is why these murals are important- they serve as a wider form of education. Next time you see one, stop and look twice. Look extra hard. You never know what hidden meanings are encased within the shapes, words, and colors.

Header image: Teocinttli Mural, East LA 

Scientific Art or Artsy Science

Jimmy Fike’s botanical photography is a harmonious fusion of science and art that promotes aesthetic modes of utilitarianism. Phew! Mouthful. Now let’s break down my pretentiously worded, esoteric thesis.

Artist Jimmy Fike takes pictures of plants that are both useful and pretty, and it’s awesome.

A brief LA Times article covers the gist of Fike’s work: Fike scavenges in nooks and crannies, ditches and alleys in search of plant specimens which he can photograph. Like any photographer, he carefully positions his models to emphasize desired traits- in this case it could be a leaf of interesting root. In the following months, he digitally illustrates the images to render edible plant parts in color.

Over the years Fike has complied an inclusive catalog of hundreds of photographs and plants and has exhibited some of his work under the title “J.W. Fike’s Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of California.”

Think about how multidisciplinary this work is. Biology, photography, media, ecology, and technology all compressed into a single image. An image that can seem as simple and


California Poppy

innocent as that of the California Poppy. What is most interesting is the uncertainty I encounter in how to address this work- is it research work, scientific work, or art work? Or, gasp, all three!? One many wonder whether Fike’s photographs belong in a science text book or an art gallery.

It is precisely this fluid exchange between fields that should be welcomed into the contemporary artistic sphere. These photographs, which are neither entirely aesthetic nor purely scientific, possess the power to reach a wider audience.

Images like these can possibly attract artists and scientists, women and men, children and adults alike. In light of the highly concerning juxtaposition between American politics and the rising threat of climate change, work like Fike’s should be encouraged, circulated, and gaining increasing relevance.

Bringing education and awareness of nature by means of art is genius, if you ask me.

Olafur Eliasson accomplished exactly this in his work Your waste of time. The piece features massive chunks of ice collected from broken fragments of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The 800-year-old ice blocks are exhibited in a refrigerated space and behave as sculptures; visitors may walk around them and contemplate their age, their size. 


But it is possible to stretch our frame of reference. When we touch these blocks of ice with our hands, we are not just struck by the chill; we are struck by the world itself. We take time from the glacier by touching it. In a sense, Your waste of time is a ‘waste of time’ because I shipped the ice across the world for it to be on view for a short period of time, after which it melts away – a nanosecond in the life of the glacier. Then there’s another way in which time is wasted: we take away time from the glacier by touching it. Suddenly I make the glacier understood to me, its temporality. It is linked to the time the water took to become ice, a glacier. By touching it, I embody my knowledge by establishing physical contact. And suddenly we understand that we do actually have the capacity to understand the abstract with our senses. Touching time is touching abstraction.” ~ Olafur Eliasson

img_mda111139_1600pxIn few other contexts would the general public in Berlin or New York be able to experience the ancient Icelandic glacier. Again, Eliasson’s installation is not purely art, nor is it purely scientific. A mysterious factor beyond either field- the same one present in Fike’s photographs- lends the piece a surrealistic feel. This factor instills a mix of wonder, awe, oneness with nature. These feelings are crucial to contemporary issues about the rapidly changing earth. Humans must acknowledged this issue, must care enough about this issue to take action.

Works by Fike and Eliasson address the very foundation of concerns like climate change- tackle the roots, if you will. It begins with educating humans, reinstalling a connection to nature, and fostering that bond to blossom into meaningful action. 

Header Image: Western Gooseberry 








I’m Back Baby, I’m Back!

Two hundred and twenty-one episodes. Watching that entire show back-to-back took 4 complete days, 3 hours, and 30 minutes. And suddenly- poof! Gone.

No more staplers in Jell-O, cringe-worthy Christmas parties, endearing love affairs, tragically hilarious office meetings, beats, bears, or Battlestar Galactica.

Boy, Michael Scott sure kept it real.


A few weeks ago I had to bid a painful farewell to the first TV show I ever loved and committed to watching in its entirety: The Office (U.S. version). Don’t get me wrong, Parks and Recreation is amazing and I enjoyed my healthy dose of Ron Swanson’s cynicism, but Leslie Knope bored me with her predictability. New Girl’s romantic suspense still was not enough to fuel me through a disorganized Season 3. I almost finished Portlandia, but it was not meant to be. Heck, I even tried to push through a few episodes of the U.K. version of The Office. In desperation, I watched 3 episodes of the series about Celia Cruz (Queen of Salsa) before I got tired to reading subtitles. Yes, yes. I know I’m picky. But what can I say? I am, after all, a young lady of high standards.

Pretty soon I got discouraged. I will never find another show with a perfect mélange of exchange between amusement, love interest, awkwardness and sentimentality among highly multidimensional characters. And I mean come on, who was going to top Creed?

Then it dawned on me. I ought to give Seinfeld a whirl!


This was the one. My college classmates kept referencing the show and my dad had been cracking signature dad-jokes from the series. Plus, I kept encountering a half-naked stubby bald man sprawled out on a couch looking rather smug. Danielle told me it was “the timeless art of seduction.” I nodded, but I didn’t get it until now.

I am definitively late on this trend, so I will spare you a lengthy summary of the show. Seinfeld is a 90s sitcom about comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his friends: George Costanza, Elaine Benes, and Cosmo Kramer. Many like to say it is “a show about nothing,” but it is really more of a show about everything. The show features their complicated love lives, work place mishaps, and amusing adventures in New York.

f9b22cd0de2a8fbf5e85e5ce9521bdfaKramer, Jerry’s “hipster doofus” neighbor (and arguably friend), is my favorite character on the show. A few descriptors: lanky, clumsy, brutally honest, questionable fashion sense, lady killer, wild hair, spastic mannerisms, grandiose entrances. Somehow all of these assets meld together to lend him a certain charm- kavorka (Season 5, Episode 11). When the Seinfeld squad is altogether, it is usually Kramer who is at the core of a problematic scene.

“Park in the handicap space!” he said. “No one ever uses it!” he said (Season 4, Ep. 22).

Throughout the show, a cigar obsessed Kramer burns down George’s girlfriend’s cabin, vomits on multiple women, indirectly causes a murder, brings a Latvian Orthodox nun to the verge of conversion, and ruptures multiple of his friends’ relationships (not to mention that it some cases he proceeds to date their exes himself).

Elaine Benes is also a intricately constructed character. Whereas Kramer serves almost solely for comic relief, Elaine’s personality ranges from lighthearted to serious and intellectual. I was surprised to find such a meaningful female role in a show 8196a3e8a0c2e1589d5e25f685e22a68that aired over a decade ago. She can laugh at herself, make goofy faces and funny noises, knock over beverages, laugh uncontrollably, compete in “the contest” (Season 4, Episode 11), burst out in rage, chew with her mouth open, use vulgar language, reject creepy men, work a cool job, be financially independent.

In other words, she is a badass.

She is not restricted to behaving in the poised, graceful manner that is so often featured on television series even today. She is not somebody’s wife or sister. She is Elaine Benes and she will fight for her chocolate babka (Season 5, Episode 13)! Elaine’s character is refreshing and inspirational: I really look up to her. I have yet to find a female role in a television series that chalks up to hers.

By the way, I love Morty. I can’t explain why. I just love Morty.

But alas, all good things come to an end, and I have reached Season 6. It pains me to admit that this means I am closer to the end of the show than the beginning. Thus, I must begin to prepare for what I can delve into next. After some research I would like to try watching Curb your Enthusiasm, which shares a creator, Larry David, with Seinfeld.

I would love to hear what your favorite shows are, who your favorite characters on Seinfeld are, which is your favorite episode, any cool fun facts or recommendations! Please comment below!

Musical Awakening Reflection

I do not know how I wake up. I almost never do know. What is the precise noise, smell, temperature change that prods a body into consciousness? Something at 8:30 AM – a stray sliver of light from the blinds, a soft shuffle of feet, or the neighbors’ Russian talk show wafting through the walls- prodded my body into consciousness. Often times, I am conscious at 11AM, and by 1AM I have mustered up the willpower to bid farewell to my warm cocoon of an abode.

Pushing my back away from the mattress, I teetered on my twiggy arms: panic. What the hell am I going to do with myself today? Mechanically I walked to my desk, pulled out a square of yellow paper. I guess what the hell I was going to do was make an origami moth.

Moth completed, I fluttered to the mirror. I was pleasantly surprised. Feel good, look good. Right? Well apparently it doesn’t quite work the other way around- feel bad, look bad- because, I still looked good. 

Idleness is so tedious.  

Naturally, I feel the urge to turn to art for a sense of comfort, of guidance. Not visual art this time.
the-vaccMy newfound music craze sprouted from my binge watching “New Girl.” I reached the closing scene of an episode that features Jess and Nick driving away into the moonlight to the song  “I Always Knew” by the Vaccines.

That was all it took. Before I knew it, I listened to all of the Vaccines’s albums on the Spotify premium account that my best friend lets me mooch from him (thanks Jack). The Vaccines can help cure me (heh. Witty, I know). But in all seriousness, I have found my band. Or, I guess that it kind of found me.

Considering that I haven’t had a favorite band since the Jonas Brothers, this is a pretty thrilling discovery. Actively listening to music is just not something I normally did before. Sure I had a melange of songs, but they ranged from German rap to Italian opera. Obviously, there was no consistency or coherent music genre. Yeah, that did made it pretty awkward when someone tried to get the conversation going.

Them: So, what’s your favorite musician/band/song/genre?

Me: Shifts nervously on feet. Dramatically sucks in my breath, you know, like how people do when they are about to deliver bad news. Aha.. well, I don’t really listen to music.

Them: Sharp gasp. Wait, what?

Me: Heat crawls to ear tips. Yeah..uh haha.. I mean I just don’t actively listen to music but it’s not like I hate it or anything. I mean I still listen to what’s on the radio and stuff.

Them: Pulls a closeby friend into the conversation. Hey dude, get this. She said she doesn’t listen to music.

Dude: Makes large bug eyes and snickers. What? Are you serious!

the-vacc1In all honesty, I did not understand why music was central to a lot of my friends’ lives. “It speaks to me” pffft, stoner blabber. Headphones equated to antisocial. Hardcore fans were sort of weirdos. I used to scoff at my younger sister’s trash indie music because all the songs sound the same. Now, that isn’t outrageously untrue, but once I researched lyrics and did nothing but listen to the music- and I mean really do nothing, just sit and breathe and listen- it made sense. Listening to music from the same genre is a special experience. The songs tend to produce similar chords and vocals, which in turn elicit similar and nuanced emotions from within myself.

Discovering music is not only the external experience of finding combinations of notes, words, and instruments that appeal to your personal tastes, but, on a deeper level, a force that encourages introspection, curious questioning, and self discovery. Why do I like this sound? What makes me feel emotional about these words? How does this relate to my life, right now? 

As I continue to delve into this musical awakening and explore The Vaccines among similar artists, I’m comfortably settling into a consistent taste. Who in the heck would have guessed that my favorite genre is indie rock? Not me. And, more specifically, english indie rock.

Although I am in a deep honeymoon phase of marveling over the newfound genre, I appreciate other artists completely foreign to me.


Coffee and Cigarettes (2013), a film by Jim Jarmusch, introduced me to Iggy. No, not Azalea. Composed of a series of short skits, the film features individuals sharing a moment, a conversation over, well, coffee and cigarettes! During one of these skits, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits meet up in a musty looking diner. Iggy Pop has most melancholy and sincere gaze I have ever witnessed, and his face is really comforting to me for a particular reason that I am unable to pinpoint. Awkward and uncomfortable, the exchange caused me second hand embarrassment just from watching the two men interact. But I loved it, in a way, the raw flow of events.

Iggy Pop is captivating, so I explored his music which caused me initial disappointment. This voice lacks the soft and sympathetic tone from the movie. I searched through the Post Pop Depression album and nearly got depression myself (alright, not a very original play on words, I’ll admit). Ready to give up, I absent mindedly clicked on the last song left- “Chocolate Drops.” Eureka! Soft voice! The lyrics! It is perfect.

Thanks to Chocolate Drops, with revived energy I scrolled and clicked on the album Aps. Instantly I was hooked. Iggy Pop sings retakes of songs in French- La Vie en Rose, La Javanaise- with his endearingly unapologetic American accent.

It only felt it fair to give Tom Waits a chance, too, although he did not intrigue me as much. His distinctive raspy voice and daring themes failed to reach me. Only one tugged at my heart strings: “If I Have To Go.” Here, there is no raspy voice, no theatrics.

demarcoThen I rediscovered Mac Demarco. I mistook that gap toothed smile and head of scraggly golden locks as an indication of his music having abstract lyrics infused with many references that would fly over my head. But you can’t judge an album by its cover. He sings clearly, and enunciates his words, words that make sense- Let Her Go, Let My Baby Stay, No Other Heart, Without Me.

There are sprinkles of other small treasures I unearthed. “Toothpaste Kisses” by the Maccabees, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” by Tame Impala, “Lead Existence” by King Krule, “Warned You” by Good Morning, “A Lack of Understanding” by the Vaccines, “Parking Lots” by Plums, “Looking out for You” by Joy Again, “Processional” by Weedeaters, “Ivy” by Frank Ocean, “If You Wanna” by The Vaccines, “Hold Up” by Beyoncé.  

High top black converse paired with rolled up jeans and a leather jacket, I ride the bus feeling like a badass. King Krule’s “Baby Blue” crackles at my eardrums. I’ve really been missing out.

Infinity remains to learn about this music world. I want to behave like a sponge to soak it all in; but a productive sponge who labors at building up a steady knowledge of music. Like Spongebob-Squarepants-at-The-Krusty-Krab productive.

From discovering english indie rock to my desire of becoming Spongebob, it is obvious that listening to music is taking me on a journey that I am, for once, perfectly content with having zero control over.

Shower me with any recommendations that come to mind, I would be thrilled to give them a listen.   

Header image: Mac Demarco