This Month in K-Pop: Boys, Butts, Boom

Because I have an insatiable love for my Korean idol groups, I’ve decided that it’s about time I started blogging about them. For the month of August, I want to talk about three new groups in particular:

BLACKPINK

YG finally debuted their newest girl group, and I’m very excited and also very nervous. Following the departure of 2ne1’s Minzy, it feels a lot like the agency is turning its attention to its next edgy girl group. Because of the easy parallels to draw between the two groups, it’s especially important that BLACKPINK make their sound and image unique.

With that said, I’m very excited. Their two singles, “Boombayah” and “Whistle,” complement each other in style and are both  catchy as heck. And so far, they’ve done a good job of standing out as individuals – Lisa especially has a powerful stage presence, and Jennie has been on YG fans’ radar for a while now.

At this point, I do think their rappers are stronger than their singers. But if they continue to develop their sound and musical ability, then they could really be unstoppable. They’re already off to a good start.

I-REN

I managed to miss any teasers that 4-member girl group I-REN put out before their debut, so I didn’t know what to expect when I started watching “butt.” In hindsight, it seems pretty obvious: “butt” is an unimaginative and unenthusiastic jab at the ever-popular sexy concept.

The debut seems to make an attempt at something more gritty and visceral than the typical polished girl group. Instead, the atmosphere is thick with discomfort.

That discomfort comes in no small part from the girls themselves (watch the “I wanna be sexy” lyric and try not to cringe),but the seedy lighting and unflattering outfits do their part, as well.

More importantly, though, is the fact that the members haven’t had an opportunity to come into their  own.This concept has been been done before, and better (see 9MUSES or Stellar), and the members of I-REN have brought nothing new to it.

Lackluster music, obtrusive camera work, and an unimaginative title all point back to the fact that this is not an experience about idols – it’s pretty much just about butts. But at least you know what you’re getting.

NCT Dream

I’m still a little confused about NCT and the related subgroups, but this adorable debut by the group’s baby-unit might convince me to pay a little more attention to them. “Chewing Gum” is obnoxiously colorful, sickeningly saccharine, and unapologetically fun.

The members of NCT Dream have a great presence, both in the MV and on stage (and they performed on hoverboards). “Chewing Gum” reminded me of some of SHINee’s sunnier concepts with a hint of endearingly tacky 90s aesthetic. This song, and its accompanying video, would have probably been average if not for the energy the boys brought to it. It’s genuine and tangible and infectious, and it’s everything that I love about bubbly Korean pop.

My only concern is in regards to their long-term appeal. Even during their teaser period, SM Entertainment seemed to be pushing them as “that really young group.” Their debut was largely dependent on that youth, so I just hope they plan to make a transformation once they, you know, hit puberty.

So those are the three groups (all new debuts) that I wanted to discuss for my first purely K-pop post. With time, I’m hoping to provide a little more information about the groups I write about so people unfamiliar with this music can learn a thing or two. In the meantime, check out the groups above and let me know what you think!

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Well, Here Goes Nothing

I’m dipping my toes into the world of freelance writing. That’s partly why I’ve been less than stellar about updating lately, but I’m really going to make an effort to make a post at least once a week.

But anyway, I’m on the hunt for freelance gigs, and I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

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When My Eating Disorder Feels Like a Bad Horror Movie

I’m sitting on my couch and watching a girl on the run. She’s being followed by something – a predator that doesn’t jump out at her from the dark, but instead walks slowly, which is somehow creepier. But I already know what’s going to happen. I know what she needs to do to save herself, and yet an impenetrable screen separates me from her world. All I can do is watch her fall right into the trap, like I’ve seen so many times before.

I want to just turn it off, but I can’t. I am that girl, and my killer’s weapon is starvation.

There’s a distinct separation taking place in my head when I’m caught up in disordered eating habits. It feels like a part of me – the broken, hurting part of me – splits off, taking control in the only way it knows how. And the rational side of me watches, a spectator, unable to change a thing.

Every new diet, every compulsion to exercise is another snare in the trap, a twist in the maze, a lock on the door that keeps me inside. When I’m restricting, I’m doing exactly what my killer wants me to do. But no matter how hard I pound on the screen, I can’t get myself to stop.

The horror-movie moments caused by my eating disorder are much less frequent than they used to be. Two years ago, my life was a nonstop reel of undereating, overexercising, and punishing my body for what it was. These days I might go for days at a time without so much as a guilty thought. But every now and then, I jump back into the same tired, overused scene. I resume my role as the victim of my own poisonous thoughts. And my frustration and dread compounds.

When I’m in those moments, I know how to prevent them. I just don’t know how to tell myself to do it. At least, not yet. The only way to win is to rewrite the story.

Recovery is a new script that I’m still trying to memorize. It’s a script that contains acceptance, forgiveness, and self-love. For me, that’s like reading in a completely different language – but with practice, I’ll be able to recite it by heart. So the next time the villain comes creeping down the hallway, I’ll be ready.

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A Daily To-Do List for When I’m Fighting Depression

Everything hurts.

It’s the only way I’ve been able to articulate the debilitating effect that depression has had on my life. When I try to ask myself why I can’t function like a “normal” human being – why I can’t clean my apartment, focus at work, or even take a shower – the answer is always the same. Whatever I try to do, not matter how simple it may be, it just hurts.

I know how frustrating it is to feel like the world is spinning too quickly, like you’ll never be able to catch up. I know that the pressure of daily responsibilities and social obligations can make it feel like you can’t breathe, let alone face the day. I know that it hurts.

When I’m in pain, even self-care becomes an effort. But it’s during those painful times that it becomes most crucial. For those days when everything hurts, I try and remember to do these things:

Drink water. Depression makes it far too easy for me to fall out of touch with  what my body needs. A glass of water is not the pinnacle of self-care or the magic cure for mental illness – but it’s a start.

Rest your mind. One thing that my depressed brain hates more than anything is inactivity; when my body is at rest, my mind goes haywire with stress and criticisms, reminding me of all the things I could and should be doing. Over time, I’ve gotten better at letting go of self-imposed obligations. Mental illness, like any other illness, requires rest.

Do something you enjoy. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, I try to set some time aside every day for an activity that brings me happiness. Sometimes, I’ll sing to my favorite song. Other times, I might play the piano, play with my dog, or read a book.

Run – or dance, or swim, or climb a tree. It only takes a couple minutes of physical activity to begin feeling the benefits it has on your mind and body. At the same time, Zumba class is usually the last place I want to be when I’ve hit a low point. I’ve learned that the best exercise is the kind I actually like doing.

Shower and brush your teeth. It sounds so simple, and yet it’s so easy to neglect. When everything is a chore, even taking a shower can seem too laborious – but I always, always feel better after I do.

Eat a vegetable. I don’t worry about having kale smoothies for breakfast and quinoa salads for dinner. Sometimes the easiest meal to manage comes out of the freezer or from the drive-thru. Sometimes I don’t want to eat anything at all. But I try to at least grab a cucumber. Or some celery. One vegetable is better than none.

Forgive yourself. Days often go by where I cannot do the things I want to do – or even the things I need to do. Mental illness tells me to judge and berate yourself, but the only way I’ve been able to move forward is to love myself – even on my worst days.

I’m not always successful, but I do my best to incorporate these things into my life not because you have to, but because I deserve to. If you are struggling with mental illness, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same. And keep fighting – every new day is a sign that you are winning.

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Things I’m Reading: 6/13

You know what I’ve learned? What I Ate Wednesdays are boring and I don’t want to do them. If I were doing as much cooking as I used to, maybe I would be more enthused. But for now, if you’re really curious, just assume that I’m eating PB and banana sandwiches or pizza.

Instead, I’d like to talk about what I’m reading – in terms of both books and Internet content. To start, here’s some of the online stuff I’ve found to be interesting this week:

  • A Brief and Depressing History of Rape Laws” – I’ve been vocal about the Stanford rape case for a lot of reasons, first and foremost because I want to do something for a victim who has been so horribly failed by the criminal justice system. But this case also opens up a conversation about the role that sexism and white male privilege play in cases like these.Most of us come face to face with some form of racism or sexism in our lives – but often, we don’t think we do, because that racism and sexism doesn’t look the way it does in the history books. It’s quiet. It’s subtle. It’s less openly violent. But it’s there, and Brock Turner’s case is an especially grim reminder of that.
  • The Dark Art of Mastering Music” – As someone who has played music her whole life, I never thought much about what goes into putting together an album. The editing process is not only intricate, but it’s a completely unique process for just about every song.
  • In the Mind of Someone with Depression on a Workday” – This will resonate with anyone trying to get through the day-to-day while fighting mental illness. I’ve had more than one of these thoughts while I was sitting at my desk and trying to write about foster care or something.
  • Gaming in Virtual Reality Could Be the Very Real Death of You” – I had my first VR experience over the weekend, and it was absolutely bananas. It really is immersive, and it takes a while for your brain to adjust to that idea. But once it does, everything feels so real. What really fascinated me about this article, though, was the end – where the writer talks about the risks that horror games could play. From my brief experience in VR (and approximately 15 seconds I spent in a horror game), I can say that those risks aren’t too far-fetched.

 

So there are the things that have been fascinating me as of late. Happy Monday!

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Please Don’t Ignore the Brock Turner Rape Conviction

California judge Aaron Persky sentenced a unanimously convicted rapist, Brock Turner, to a shamefully meager 6 months in jail. The reason? The judge said a “prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.”

The Stanford swimmer’s case has been all over the Internet, and for good reason: people in his camp have been trying to humanize him in the aftermath of the inhuman act he committed. Persky also falls into this camp. If the punishment should fit the crime, he clearly has no sympathy for victims of rape.

The fact that he had never raped a woman prior to this does not matter. The fact that Turner’s father attempted to reduce rape to “20 minutes of action” doesn’t matter. The fact that the consequences of his crime will change his life dramatically doesn’t matter. Except to California Supreme Court Judge Aaron Persky, it does.

Don’t sit back just because the negligence of our justice system hasn’t reached your doorstep yet. As long as we respond to cases like this with inaction, they will continue to happen. Inform yourself. Speak up for a victim who has been robbed of justice. Speak up against the judge who failed her so horribly – whose job  it is to protect the people who need to be protected.Speak up against a criminal who is instead being protected because of his privilege. Do something.

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I Passed My Pre-ED Weight and It Sucks

Gaining weight has not been the experience I hoped it would be.

I know I’m not the only one who had whimsical, doe-eyed dreams of gaining weight “the healthy way.” I essentially imagined myself rolling around in piles of fresh fruits and vegetables, and then using my boundless energy to take a soaring run through the mountains. I thought I’d be lavishing myself with an abundance of wholesome foods. I thought I’d be getting stronger and fitter than ever.

Not so.

For me, weight gain has entailed a lot of things, none of them quite so refreshing and pretty. In the beginning, I tried hard to stick to foods I considered healthy – often successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, and always in excess. I spent a lot of days eating until my entire body hurt and then desperately trying to burn it off. I constantly broke into sweats as my body tried to figure out what to do with all this new energy. Every inch of my body felt puffy with water retention. And I wasn’t even close to my original weight yet.

Every time I saw a higher number on the scale, I had to choke back the voice in my head that said, “Don’t worry, we’ll lose the weight again in no time.” After a while, it became easier and easier. I gave myself more leeway to eat what I wanted at mealtimes and (surprise) often found myself more satisfied at meals. My weight gain continued at a slower pace, and I was happy to see that I still had muscle definition and cardio endurance. Eventually, I reached the weight I’d been at before my disorder, but I looked different; I was leaner and more toned. I wasn’t necessarily happy, but I could deal.

And then the scale kept creeping up.

Life happened. I started dating. Work became more energy-consuming. My desire for cheap, convenient meals trumped my once-obsessive need to eat whole foods. My muscle definition disappeared and cellulite took its place. Instead of going on runs every other day, I find myself using my time off to lie on the couch, eat sushi, and watch scary movies.

As I write it out, I feel fine about it. Living it for the past several weeks has been another story.

This feels like an important – almost necessary – step in my recovery. Passing my original weight has pushed me, yet again, way beyond my comfort zone. The urges to restrict my meals and compulsively exercise are raging. And instead, I’m sitting still.

I want to eat healthily and exercise in the long-term, but I don’t trust myself not to abuse that lifestyle right now. If I do decide to go for a run, it will only be with a healthy mindset. I owe my body that much, at least.

Right now, the Sami that could run an eight-minute mile is in hibernation. The fastidious home cook is taking a break. I haven’t lost the ability to reach those goals again, but I realize that I don’t need those skills right now. Right now, my mental health takes precedence.

Still, I’m allowed to be upset. My plan is to be upset for a little while longer and then do my best to move on. I think I’m finally in a place where that’s possible. My emotions are valid, but they don’t have to dictate my actions or my sense of self-worth. I’m not where I want to be, but I think I’m going to be okay.

So in sum: this sucks. But for once, I can say I’ll get over it.

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