Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee

When I sat down to watch Grease! Live, I felt mainly anxious. Attempting to recreate such an iconic movie is dangerous, and I was bombarded with images of Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella Montez and clips of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” playing in my head. The characters of Grease – their voices, their clothes and their mannerisms – are so unique, I didn’t think it was possible for people other than the original cast to do them justice.

While I was pleasantly surprised by the live production of Grease, I do have to somewhat criticize the casting choices. While Vanessa Hudgens and Aaron Tveit had incredible vocal performances, they failed in my eyes to capture the essence of Rizzo and Danny. Danny Zuko is greasy and sexy and goofy, always moving his hips and limbs in unnatural ways and combing his hair. Aaron Tveit played a much more wholesome and restricted Danny. He wasn’t a punk. In the final scene of his live performance, Tveit looked very at home in his letterman sweater – versus the typical Danny Zuko leather jacket and cigarette. Similarly, Vanessa Hudgens wasn’t able to reproduce Rizzo’s bitchy attitude and snarly sound. Hudgens nailed Rizzo’s habitual gesture of playing with the bottom of her hair, but the overall impression wasn’t on.

That being said, Julianne Hough channeled Olivia Newton John to near perfection. From her look to her voice to her demeanor, Julianne Hough was Sandy Olsson (see below). She was sweet and demure. But in the final scene, she was sexy and fierce.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 10.54.02 PM

Project Pitch Reflection

 

To prepare for my project pitch, I read through the brainstorming mini-assignment I had worked on the previous week. It had all the beginnings of my ideas, and a somewhat hazy idea of a final project emerged at the end. I thought this would be sufficient for my pitch, to get the idea out of my head and into the others, essentially throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.

I think this worked out for the most part, as I got a wide variety of advice from my classmates. Some of it what about the scope of the project: I heard from several people that a 3 to 5 minute video would be the most engaging for their attention. Another suggestion was to have a mini-series of videos, each with a specific conversation to be had with the idea of college. I think this is a good idea, with several videos, I have a wider scope and will be able to feel like I am still doing a good amount of work for my project.

Another helpful suggestion was to think about the audience: several people wanted to know who I would target, and I think each video could potentially address all of my audiences: graduating high schoolers and college students. I was happy with the response to tone: as most thought the idea of a dry parody would be funny, and that it would be able to provoke some questions as well.

I am confident in writing the formal proposal, the only question that remains is what specific topics do I want to address. I know my project will be very malleable and that subjects will be added and cut throughout the process, but I am a little worried about starting off the list and what ideas I want to begin with.

Beyond that, I’m just excited to start shooting the videos and editing the clips into something somewhat like a finished product.

One For The Books.

It can be easy to get lost in the thrill of a new semester. New classes, new friends, new awkward ice-breakers, but most importantly; new knowledge. This semester has already started off as one of the most intense, yet rewarding times of my life. At the end of last semester I was elected as President of the National Panhellenic Association on campus. In short, I act as the liaison between the Panhellenic sororities (all 17 of them), and the University of Michigan. This job was not at all what I expected, however the experience has been exhilarating. My life has gone from occasional all nighters and the library and working 20-30 hours at a local restaurant, to limited sleep and constant meetings and emails. On top of all of this, I am starting an LSAT prep course in the middle of February. This will be a task that I have never endeavored before, but that I am welcoming with open arms.

I’m the type of person who loves to be busy, but this new constantly stressful lifestyle has taught me a lot about myself:

  1. Put yourself first. Not in the sense that everything I choose to do has to be selfish, but in the sense that my health and wellbeing is essential to keep everything I do running well. If I am not putting myself and my needs first, I will fail at all else I try to accomplish.
  2. Honesty is the best policy. No matter what situation I’m put into, no matter who is in the room with me, and no matter who I will potentially hurt; honesty is the best policy. If I am to leave a legacy and my “mark” on my community, I want it to begin and end with honesty and integrity.
  3. Utilize your connections. When you’re involved in as many organizations and ventures as I am, it can be easy to get lost in all the connections you hold. However something that I have found to be crucial is leveraging your connections and now shielding them selfishly from others. Sharing connections with others opens doors for collaborations, connections, and potentially innovative ideas.
  4. Be mindful of others. Working in an environment consisting of many nationalities and being a person of Hawaiian descent, I always considered myself mindful of others. Yet I found that as a culture we speak and act in ways that are not openly offensive, yet still cause harm. I have put it upon myself to be mindful of the way in which I speak and act towards all individuals, to create a respective and welcoming environment.
  5. Break stereotypes. Ah. The number of times I’ve told people that I am in a certain sorority or a member of Greek Life and they have said “what? but you’re so down to earth?” is quite sad. Greek Life has a reputation of wealth, disrespect, sexual assault, and risky behaviors. Although this may be a cultural phenomenon or the act of a few individuals, it is my goal to break stereotypes everywhere I go and to encourage others to do the same.
  6. Leave a legacy. Now, this bullet point is a bit more difficult to write. Solely because the word “legacy” carries such a heavy weight and the need for substantial change or impression. Yet, I believe leaving a legacy can be as simple as making friends who speak highly of you, creating one program that really speaks to a sorority, or just helping one person overcome a mental health disorder. I want to leave a legacy.

The semester has started, but my intentions and hope for the future have only begun.

Sixty-Nine Days: Discussion

Sixty-Nine Daysan article published in The New Yorker, details the story of the Chilean miners trapped by the collapsed San José Mine back in 2010. (Published in 2014, it is immediately clear that the author went to immense depth to craft the article.) The article begins pre-collapse by describing the scene, the subjects, and the history. Many of the thirty-three men are introduced in detail. Then, an almost-daily account of the entrapment is given, in which camaraderie, faith, and dreams of death are emphasized. Finally, the author investigates the effects that the rescue and sudden fame had on a few of the miners. The author avoids any serious discussion of politics and jurisdiction, and he focuses, rather, on survival and on the human condition.

The writing is “immersive” in every possible way — often, the scene and characters are described with such detail that you can’t help but think it’s fiction. Writing, like this, showcases the author’s deft ability to incorporate research (mostly interviewing in this case) and the depth to which he went before writing. The subjects are beautifully characterized beyond anything that would be found in a traditional news article, allowing it to surpass the endeavors of that genre. Further, the writing yields bits of dark humor that reveal the desperation of the situation to the audience.

When reading this article, there are a number of things that I encourage you to pay attention to: the characterization of the miners, the fluid inclusion of research, the use of present tense, the bits of dark humor, the detail and imagery with which the story is told, the use of dreams, the way in which death is described, and the presence (absence?) of photographs/videos. Each of these aspects lends accordingly to the genre and the intentions of the piece.

Last week, Britni included another article to read and compare her’s to. Given that mine is already very long (thirty pages), I won’t ask you to do that. Do, however, keep in mind the way in which the writing here differs from the conventions of typical news pieces, though we won’t necessarily address this head-on.

In discussion, we will be focusing on the following questions:

  1. What is the genre? How can you tell?
  2. What is working well here (given the genre)?
  3. What is the purpose?
  4. Could this piece have taken a different medium? Different publication?

For those of us writing in a similar genre as this article, I think it will be extremely valuable. For those of you who are not, I hope you that you are able to take something away from it and find enjoyment in it nonetheless!

Blogging for Confidence

I am still not exactly sure what I want my final project to be. To be about?

I’m not sure.

I’ll start here: I am excited about the prospect of the project. It is like I can taste the idea and I can see the colors of the idea but I am leaving time to tell me what the idea is. JP said in his blog post that his idea came from a  song. Where can I find such a song?! Part of me wants tot think that I am just not thinking enough about the project. But another part of me is really relying on that spark of clarity that may come while walking through the diag on my way to my 4pm Children’s Lit class, or sitting on the bus listening to music on my way to north campus. I know the idea will come, but what should I do to get it?

As of now, I am straddling the idea of writing a one-act play for theatre enthusiasts and for the purpose of good monologues and scenes for an audience my age. Here is the caveat: 1) I have to be a good writer to write a good play. 2) I have never written a play. 3). I have to write about something I know because I have limited time for research between now and when the project is due.

This leaves me with a small pile of ideas that I could delve into. I could write about where I am right now; A college senior about to graduate with a degree in acting. I could write about where I once was. I could write about where the people around me are as well. This idea initially led me to documentary theatre. I could conduct interviews to guide the direction of the plot or theme I am striving to drive out. This could be cool, but I don’t want it to be preachy. If I went this rout I would study up on documentary theatre as a genre, read a lot of plays, and hopefully talk to people who have written a lot of plays. I want to know how to do this in a way that is still inherently theatrical, even if it is not entirely fictional.

I am also thinking of writing a traditional, fictional play. Possibly a dialogue between two people around my age. I am thinking of doing this because I am often drawn to these types of plays and in the form of a one-act I think, with the right plot focus and idea, it could be done.

Maybe another element of my project would be to get part of it to be done aloud and I could stage a bit of it on camera. I am going to look into short films because of this to see if anything else sparks an idea. Overall, I know that I have no idea where I am going, but I don’t think that’s so bad. Yet.

On the bright side, I forgot how much I missed blogging!

Spongebob

 

 

Project Pitch Evaluation

On Monday I walked into class confident in the fate of my Capstone project. The night before, during a heavily caffeinated homework binge, I had a moment of clarity. I saw my finished project. I was feeling inspired by an album I had just happened upon (Departure Songs by We Lost the Sea, for anyone interested in post/ambient rock). There’s nothing quite like listening to one of your favorite songs for the first time. As this song (linked below) began to play, I saw old pictures from the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and other historical landmarks for the labor movement. I heard passionate rally speakers–from decades ago and today–riling up underpaid workers. I saw video clips of workers from all walks of life on strike.

This song samples an interesting monologue about engineering manned space flight. The speaker’s analogy about dreams tugged at my innards. When he speaks of the importance of seeing his hands, I envisioned the soot-black mitts of a post-WWII factory worker. Then I zoomed out and saw the structure of my complete artifact. As the song builds in intensity, we move closer to the present and discuss, with pictures and dialogue, the rise of the Fight for 15. Finally, as the song reaches its climax, I saw the driven folks I organize with reaching out their hands to offer the audience the chance to help.

More concretely, I will construct a video which gives a timeline of the labor movement in the U.S., from its origins up to the current state of the Fight for 15. The finale of the piece will give the audience the impetus to get involved. All this to say that my only concern having my pitch peer reviewed was that I wasn’t far enough along in producing my project to receive useful feedback. In other words, I was so confident in my plan that I didn’t think any outside feedback–that from anyone outside of my head–could help.

Truthfully, though, I gained a lot of insight from my peers’ feedback. For one, my peers helped me realize that I may be too ambitious in the amount of history I want to tell. The labor movement is a huge slice of all of America’s history and only so much can be condensed into the length of a song. I was recommended to be deliberate and specific in the timeline I construct, i.e., only include the aspects of the labor movement that explain the rise and success of the Fight for 15. Also, I was advised to interview the folks I’m interested in discussing and record those interviews to include in the video. Overall, I took away a sense that I should not be too quick to tie down my plan. It’s good to be prepared, but I shouldn’t necessarily commit to a plan just because of one manic brainstorming session. It may be the case that my final project looks much like it does in my head right at this moment. However, I will not hold myself accountable for doing so. There is much time between now and April and there’s much more inspiration for me to come upon before then.

Reflecting on the Proposal Pitch

Going into the proposal pitch, I think I felt a bit overconfident. I didn’t feel that my idea was superior or anything, just that it was well-enough developed and thought through for it to suffice as a project pitch. In this regard, I was definitely underprepared. The feedback provided on my pitch helped me realize that my project idea will need to be revised and reworked.

The most helpful advice for me was that I should focus on gauging interest within my intended audience (which at the time was the general public), because my project topic — the therapeutic potential of rock climbing — is not necessarily relatable to all. Using past advice from Shelley, I am now considering changing the focus from rock climbing to adventure in general (though this is not for certain), which would attract a wider group of readers. This would also give me access to a wider research base, which would definitely allow the project to progress more quickly. In focusing on this more general topic, I could still incorporate the personal narrative components about rock climbing that I was hoping to incorporate. As a project medium, I am still considering writing an immersive journalism piece in which I would write from personal experience, interview others, and incorporate scientific research to answer the question: Why is it that wilderness adventure is so therapeutic for many? Also, why is wilderness adventure not for everyone? And maybe as an overarching question, why are so many of us compelled by nature, while others are not at all? I hope that these questions would grab the attention of most people.

Though this idea is solidified in my mind, I still have doubts. Part of me thinks a topic more creative would be a better fit, but at this point it seems unreasonable. I think committing and solidifying my current idea will be best for me.

I’m excited to see what comes of my project. While I expect it to continue evolving and shaping, I am hoping to avoid any drastic changes!

Here’s a fitting article (with a very fitting title) that I will use as part of my topic research! >> Fitting article with very fitting title

Lift, tone, burn

Tuck, hold, squeeze, pulse, curl, breath, circle, freeze. I swear I hear these words in my sleep.

I am three weeks into my membership at Pure Barre, Ann Arbor, and while I love the way I feel after taking a class, sometimes I find myself more enamored with the cult-like nature of the exercise studio than I am the workout.

For those who don’t know, barre is the next Pilates and the Yoga for women who like their workouts scheduled and spoken to them but who just can’t sit still. It involves, yes, a ballet bar — although there isn’t a whole lot of grace associated with it, from my end — along with light weights, a ball, and some sort of stretching tube. The idea is to use the body’s resistance, small controlled movements and high repetition to push the muscle to exhaustion — which induces a very funny looking quaking, especially when you’re on your tip toes — in order to change its shape. And while each class is nearly identical, barre is never easy. The better you know the postures, deeper you feel what they call the “mind-body connection,” the more out of breath you’ll be. Not to mention that the instructors are trained in motivational speaking and will come around to ensure your leg lifts to you “challenge pint,” should you think about lowering it for a break.

I love it. I shelled out an arm and a leg for an unlimited package for the entire semester and as I sit here writing about it, my muscles are jumping to get back. And for what it’s worth, I’ve seen my body change for the better. And I’ve considered throwing away my education to become a barre teacher, but that’s another blog post.

What’s more interesting to me, or rather more relevant for the purposes of my capstone project, are the dynamics of these classes and the women who participate in them. Take, for example, the Pure Barre “look.” The studio requires long or crop leggings and socks, which is code for at least one article of clothing from Lululemon or Athleta — there is more brand loyalty in that room than in Starbucks on South U during finals — and the Pure Barre socks, which are black with colored dots, for individuation of course. It’s a barrier to entry (on top of the membership) that makes these women constantly invest back into the organization, money to buy clothing specifically to wear to class or time to coordinate outfits that will convey access to that clothing.

The other day, I watched three girls get in an Uber after a 9 am class. Yeah.

Anyway, I’ll spend the rest of my semester — five to six days a week! —  recording the norms and rituals associated with this cult-like workout, all the while working to … lift, tone, burn??

Pitching my Capstone project to the class

I was looking forward to the class pitches for the Capstone project because I was interested to see what everybody else was going to come up with. I felt confident about the core topic of my project because I know it’s something I’ll be engaged with throughout the semester, but I still had to flush out the details of the purpose of my piece and where I see this published.

I want to compare the lives of first generation college students and continuing generation students at the University of Michigan through a series of interviews. Given recent diversity initiatives, this is a topic of interest to many faculty and administration, but the topic would also be of interest to current and future students who want to learn more about people’s experiences at the university. I have decided not to do a podcast and instead transcribe the interviews, although recording the interviews will be key to the transcription.

I got some good suggestions about where this project could be published, and I’d like to like to see my article as a long form interview housed in The New York Times or any other similar news publication. I know past first generation college student articles have appeared in NPR, so that could also be a good avenue because they take on social issues like this.

I think purpose is what I’m struggling the most with because there have been a few pieces of content generated in the recent years around first generation college students. So, it comes down to “What more do I want to add to the conversation?” Shelley questioned why I want to interview continuing gens and what purpose that would serve to my story. I’m still mulling on the answer to that, but I want to use the continuing gens to serve as a contrast to first gens to make the difference between the two more obvious. There has been research showing that first gens have a harder time adjusting to college compared to their peers, but from the editorial pieces that I’ve seen, I haven’t seen that direct comparison from actual student experiences themselves. I’m also interested in if this identity is embraced by students right when they first enter or if it changes as the years go by. I think people tend to identify with their racial/cultural identities more than with their first gen identity, so I want to see if this is true.

the mich daily

I feel good about writing a formal proposal even though the task seems daunting. I think my project will grow and change even as I conduct interviews. I’m excited in hearing about each person’s different story and giving them a voice about their experiences. This could really add conversation to an important topic, so that is exciting in itself.

Doing the pitches in class helped me articulate my thoughts and figure out what more I need to do. And there’s so much more to do.

Post-Pre-Proposal Reflections

I feel like a piece of fruit, jumping up and down (on my non-existent legs), screaming at the top of my (non-existent) lungs: “PICK ME! PICK ME!” If I were parodying myself, I’d make a joke here about those old Fruit of the Loom commercials or the annoying orange. But I’m serious. I feel like an inanimate object vying for the attention of anyone who will notice, but, of course, nobody notices, because inanimate objects are inanimate.

The College of Engineering’s career fair was today and yesterday. After trudging around north campus for hours upon hours, clutching my resumes in their block-M folder, fidgeting with my name badge and blazer, and making small talk with recruiters who inevitably tell me to “Apply online, thanks,” I am exhausted. And freaking out just a little bit.

I have worked ridiculously hard (as has almost everyone else I know) over the past four years in order to make myself marketable to employers. Returning to the fruit metaphor, I’ve worked ridiculously hard to be the shiniest, brightest apple on the branch. I’m certainly here at UM to pursue something I’m passionate about. I’m also here to train for a lifelong career, and virtually every choice I make points back to that purpose.

So, as I’m picking a subject for my capstone project, I’m struggling with the fact that nothing I’m excited to work with for the next three months has anything to do with chemical engineering. Or engineering, period. I’m nervous that I could be missing an opportunity to make myself more marketable by choosing the wrong subject.

Is it responsible of me to spend all of this time and energy and creativity on something that doesn’t readily relate to what I think I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life? What defines “responsible” in this situation? Do I care whether or not I want to be “responsible” right now? Isn’t this (the last writing class I will take as an undergrad) on of my last chances to be excusably irresponsible in my life? Am I overthinking this?

Ah, the joys of overthinking: fruit metaphors and endless strings of questions.