New York, I’m Leaving You

March 25, 2014 § 3 Comments


If I haven’t told you yet, here’s the official announcement: At the end of May, I will be leaving NYC and moving to Minneapolis to start working at the Star Tribune as a multi-platform editor. I have absolutely loved living in New York for the past year and a half, but a golden opportunity presented itself back in the Midwest and I couldn’t refuse.

“If you love New York so much why are you leaving??? Where is Minnesota on a map?? Is it in Canada? How do you pronounce Minneapolis?! Is it close to Milwaukee or Missouri or other Midwest places that start with M???” are some of the questions I’ve heard. Let me break it down for you:

It’s a good company in an acceptable, metro-ish city

Everybody is skeptical about print journalism. I’ve had countless friends and acquaintances raise their eyebrows at me and start a half-question, half-statement with the words “But newspapers/magazines are dying…”

Yes, yes, you don’t have to tell me that; I’ve heard it. Trust me. What I usually say is that while the industry is certainly contracting, it’s more changing than flat-out dying. There will always be a need for news, and there will always be a need for professional newspeople in professional newsrooms. I could go on, but basically, until the industry actually goes down the drain, I’m going to enjoy my chosen profession.

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My Problem With “Frozen”

February 16, 2014 § 6 Comments

Over the weekend, I had the chance to watch Disney’s Frozen with a few friends — well, it was almost 4 a.m. when we started the movie, so we only got through two-thirds of it.

A little background: I absolutely love watching animated movies. Two of my favorite movies of all time are Coraline and The Secret of Kells; one of my favorite films of 2013 was Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2. However, this doesn’t mean I’m not picky about what I watch. Almost none of the other animated features of last year (Monsters University, Despicable Me 2) appealed to me, including Frozen.

Overall, I’d say the movie was charming. The animation was beautiful, and the songs and voice acting were superb. But I couldn’t get over the fact that the entire plot was based on a hugely flawed premise.

I can accept without question that Elsa was just born with magical snow-making abilities. Fairy tales usually have an element of fantasy, after all. But what I cannot wrap my head around is that she has to go through a huge period of her life believing that she needs to hide this superpower.


Her parents are largely to blame. It’s strongly implied that they knew about this ability even before the incident and had told young Elsa to keep it under wraps. Why else would nobody in the kingdom know about it? But the thing is…what are they afraid of? They’re the royal family. Can you imagine if the Queen of England had the power to shoot icicles?? Wouldn’t awe and respect of the throne be magnified by a million percent?! Did they think that the police were going to come and cart their daughter off to join the circus?? (Were they afraid ice-haulers like Kristoff would be put out of a job???)

That brings us to the part where Anna’s memories gets erased/replaced. It’s weird enough that we don’t get any explanation (other than a map that falls out of a book?) of why stone trolls are the end-all, be-all of magical maladies. I guess their reasoning was that if she forgot about her sister’s power, then she wouldn’t tempt her to use it and would therefore be safe. Really? The king and queen went with that kind of logic? That whole sequence was basically shoved down our throats in a don’t-ask-any-questions way, but I demand better.

If Elsa were encouraged to cultivate her powers instead of trying to act like they don’t exist, this would’ve been a much better story. Seriously, what kind of parent tells his child to “conceal, don’t feel”?? We as the audience are asked to simply believe that her abilities are automatically bad and to be feared without being given good enough reasons as to why.

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That Time I Met Tyra Banks and Ate Her Ice Cream

February 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Tyra gif

This story is a series of coincidences.

It started on a hot weekday last June, a perfect day for Korean cold noodles (naengmyun). I had made dinner plans to meet Rachel at Han Joo in East Village, so I made my way there after work.

While waiting to cross the street at the corner of St. Mark’s Pl. and 3rd Ave., I heard a loud voice behind me talking about Nutella. He sounded very self-assured, as if lecturing on the wonders of hazelnut chocolate spread. Curious, I turned around and realized that the loudmouth behind me was my friend Drew.

What are the chances? It gets better. Drew was with two friends, Brandon and Travis, who were visiting from Florida, and they were also on their way to dinner. So I invited them to eat with me and Rachel (she arrived a bit later). The five of us had such a good time over noodles and BBQ that afterward, we decided to head across the street for dessert at Spot.

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The Demise of Facebook Photo Albums

January 27, 2014 § 2 Comments


If you compare my previous two blog posts to all of my other ones, you’ll see that I don’t normally include this many photos, especially personal ones. Normally, if I had a lot of pictures I wanted my friends to see, I would put them in a Facebook album. I used to spend a decent amount of time choosing/editing photos and writing clever captions for my FB photo albums, especially when I was doing fun things like traipsing around Hong Kong. And I totally judge people who dump all 260 of their blurry vacation photos into an album.

But recently I’ve felt that the FB album is…dying. With the rise of Instagram, and especially after it got integrated into FB newsfeeds, the act of uploading or interacting with a photo is that much more temporary. Even people who don’t use Instagram behave like this — my mother, who put together dozens of huge (physical) photo albums in me and my brother’s formative years, is now obsessed with uploading one-at-a-time pictures of sunsets, homemade biscotti, etc. onto FB. (I do find it rather endearing and entertaining.)

Mean Girls gifThe way we interact with media has undoubtedly changed. People take literally less than a second to scroll past a photo on their feed; what’s going to make them stop and click through an entire album? Pages of gifs on Buzzfeed are the exception, I suppose.

This change makes me a bit sad. Photo albums are good for storytelling. You can see a setting, zoom in on the food, zoom out to see the people, follow the camera from place to place. One snapshot isn’t nearly enough to get all that information. Besides, because most of these photos are taken spontaneously and/or with a phone, the quality (content, composition, whatever) usually sucks, unless you’re some kind of pro Instagrammer with hundreds of followers and really great lighting.

Anyway, what it boiled down to was that I had a ton of photos from winter break, and I didn’t want to simply upload them to FB because nobody would see them. Thus, they made it onto my blog instead, which was the obvious solution if I was interested in telling a story. I’m not saying that all 1,000+ of my FB friends read this blog, but I believe it served my purpose better in this case.

As for social media, I’m curious to see whether people will find another platform to store and share their photo collections, or if social photography has more or less permanently evolved to instapix.

In the future, I’d love to spend time putting together physical photo albums like my mother did. It’s always such a treat to flip through the thick, yellowing pages to see what we all looked like in the ’90s. (I was scrawny and very nerdy-looking. #teamglasses) Of course, that would require me to figure out how to actually get photos printed, a modern-yet-retro convenience that I never got around to learning, like operating a manual car wash or dishwasher. One thing at a time!


Me at around 9 years old, from a family photoshoot we did (minus dad) in China

Winter Break With The BFFs, pt. II

January 13, 2014 § 1 Comment

As stated in my earlier post, one of my goals this winter break was to spend a maximum amount of time with my best friends, who all managed to be in the same place for the first time in four years

I’m not sure if we actually achieved that goal, but we probably came close!

During our first week together, we tried to communicate with each other by group texting via regular messaging, which fell apart when certain people’s texts would appear to reply to individuals but still be sent to the whole group somehow. Very confusing. We decided to start a group chat on WhatsApp, which was the best decision ever. Here’s a snippet of our delightful conversation:


It turned out the offender took two separate poop breaks in the span of an hour. What a champ.

The chat was titled so because the first weekend, we had a bit of trouble figuring out how to transport ourselves into the city as our available vehicles were no longer usable for one reason or another. We briefly considered taking the train, which would’ve been overpriced and annoying considering we were hauling presents/booze/sleepover gear. Desperate times…it was strange encountering teenage-level problems as 20-somethings. Fortunately Xixi was able to borrow her dad’s car to ferry us over. #suburbproblems

Later that week for New Year’s Eve, the five of us gathered at Chen’s house to get ready for the party that Sandra so graciously put together.


Lucy tried her hand at playing makeup artist. Putting makeup on someone else is a true challenge when you’re only used to applying it on yourself!

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A Long-Awaited Reunion of Besties

January 6, 2014 § 1 Comment

Chen, Xixi, Yawen, Lucy (I was behind the camera)

Chen, Xixi, Yawen, Lucy (I was behind the camera)

This winter break was a special one because I got to be in the same place as my four best friends for the first time in exactly four years. Since New Years 2009, our lives have mostly gone separate ways: I went to Hong Kong twice and eventually moved to New York; Chen went to China for three years then moved to Seattle; and Yawen completed her first two years of med school in the Caribbean. Lucy and Xixi, our loyal Illinois residents, stayed near home, with the former getting a big girl job and moving to the city and the latter passing her first round of boards and starting med school rotations.

We’ve all changed quite a bit since the last time we met up, and it’s such a blessing to be able to come home and get back together like we were never apart. Just look at how much we’ve matured physically!

In '09, four of us couldn't even drink legally! We toasted with sparkling juice (I swear)

In ’09, four of us couldn’t even drink legally! We toasted with sparkling juice (I swear)

Since Chen and I were back in Naperville for the exact same dates, the five of us made the most of our time together. I’m normally not so insistent/obsessive about taking photos (especially ones of myself), but I figured that we’re only young and cute and together for so long, so I’d better document everything in order to have something tangible to look back on! (Other than the potbelly I’ve gained from eating so much.) « Read the rest of this entry »

Holidays At Home

December 25, 2013 § 1 Comment


I said in an earlier post that I wanted to start blogging more regularly, especially writing more about my day-to-day life just to have some sort of non-social-media record of it. Seems easy enough, but I realize now that it’s going to be harder than I thought.

When I blog now, I can’t help but try to make the content seem more significant somehow. For example, my parents stopped haranguing me about my appearance (now that I’m back down to a slimmer size and my skin has cleared up). I could just report it plainly, but I always end up going off on some tangent about the past or how this new development fits into society at large, etc. Then my brain gets tired and I don’t end up writing much of anything at all.

But I’m determined to try!

Doctor WhoThis winter break has been better than most. I finally, finally have a full-time job (on the horizon; if I haven’t told you about it yet, feel free to ask me in person!), which means that my parents can relax. They’ve probably been stressed out about it for the past three years…I feel bad. But now it’s all good! As I mentioned above, they have nothing to criticize about my appearance (Asian kids know what I’m talking about…no pimple is off limits). Plus, I already have a boyfriend I’ve been dating long-term and whom I’m basically moving to be with, so I don’t have to deal with who-or-when-are-you-dating questions. (Inquiries of marriage are a different story, though I’m still young enough to deflect them lol.)

So, for once there are no grey clouds hanging over our heads. (Unless you count my brother, who just locks himself in his room to play League of Legends.)

My parents have been busying themselves with cooking, especially dad. He’s definitely head chef in the family when it comes to dinner parties and such. My mom can cook too (I mean, what Chinese person from their generation doesn’t know how?), but she doesn’t enjoy it nearly as much as he does.

On Christmas Eve, we had my aunt’s family over as well as some “orphaned” Chinese kids (not really orphans; that’s just what my friends and I call people our age whose parents live overseas or happen to be on vacation elsewhere), which brought us to nine people total. Dad ended up cooking enough to feed at least 20. An impressive spread to be sure, but mother was displeased and remarked later that he could’ve done with making a bit less. He didn’t reply, but I could tell he was thinking woman, let me cook! It doesn’t help that everyone seems to be more aware of waistlines than before and tend to eat less than we would have maybe five or 10 years ago.

Sailor Moon gif

nom nom nom for 20 minutes before we all get full

Thus, we ended up with so many leftovers. Dad doesn’t have to worry about them because in a week and a half, he’ll be halfway across the country again for work. My dumb brother is incredibly picky and refuses to eat leftovers, which leaves poor mother to slowly graze through them (she’s tiny and doesn’t need much food to begin with).

Overall, though, things are fine in the Li household. Me finding a job lifted the tension considerably. My relationship with my parents has always been tumultuous, so my goal for now is to simply keep my parents happy. For today, that means DJing Christmas music (now playing: The Nutcracker Suite) and recommending mother movies to drag my dad to watch. Hehe.

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