Thursday, February 25, 2016

Original Animation in Chinese With English Subtitles!

My classmates Ki Wi, Sandra and I made an animated movie for our Chinese 3 class at LACHSA.  The title is Hole.  The movie is in broken Chinese, with English subtitles. Enjoy!!! Laugh at our pronunciation if you must.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Take the Ukulele Seriously!

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ukuleles?  For me, it was Spongebob.  Or Hawaii.  Or “cute.”

These days, it’s Jake Shimabukuro, the solo ukulele sensation whose music alters the way audiences and the general public perceive the ukulele and the kind of music it is capable of producing.  If you aren’t already familiar with his work, watch the youtube video that started it all, his cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  Or watch his incredible rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I’d literally never taken the ukulele seriously as a musical instrument until I watched Jake Shimabukuro’s videos...and then I immediately stole my sister Chloe’s ukulele and taught myself how to play.  I’ll never be as good as Shimabukuro, but at least I can goof around and play some songs.

Chloe and I had the great pleasure of watching him perform live at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo a few months ago while he and director Tadashi Nakamura were promoting the documentary detailing his progression as a ukulele player, Life on Four Strings.  The event started off with a screening of the documentary, which beautifully captured Shimabukuro’s struggle to discover his own sound and identity through his music while trying to build and maintain relationships with his family.  This was followed by a panel discussion featuring both Shimabukuro and Nakamura about their experience shooting the documentary, during which there were definitely some funny stories (I want to see a blooper reel now).  Shimabukuro looks so young in person!  And he’s such a sweet guy, we were totally fangirling over him.

I’ll be honest: Chloe and I went mainly because we wanted to hear Shimabukuro play ukulele, but the documentary and the panel discussion were a wonderful treat.  Of course, we were so thrilled to watch his live performance, in which he played a number of original pieces as well as “While my Ukulele Gently Weeps.”  We even got to meet him and have him sign our cell phones afterwards (if I’d known he was doing a signing after the performance, I would have brought my ukulele for him to sign).  He’s such a nice guy!

Ultimately, watching the documentary and seeing him in the flesh made me realize that he’s not just a talented guy, he’s a real person who worked really hard to get to where he is.  So if you’re looking for a new inspiration and haven’t already listened to a few of Jake Shimabukuro’s tracks, I recommend you do so right now.

Cheers! :)

Oh, and sorry for taking so long to update—I started college in the fall and I’ve been super busy trying to get a handle on things, but expect more regular posts in the future!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I almost forgot Godzilla was from Asia!

A few weeks ago, Chloe and I went to watch the new Godzilla, which our parents had already seen and liked.

If you aren't familiar with Godzilla, it is a giant, dinosaur-like monster that first came about in Japanese films in the 1950s.  It has since become an international popular culture icon, becoming the star in numerous film adaptations, comic books, TV shows, and video games.  The premise of the new film: two ancient monsters called Mutos are awakened and begin wreaking havoc around the world in order to accomplish their main goal of reproducing.  Godzilla is supposedly the heroic, god-like creature meant to come in and take these Mutos down for the purpose of restoring the natural balance of the world.  Ford Brody, the main human protagonist, takes it upon himself to protect U.S. from the Mutos.

The funny thing here is that the franchise originated in Japan.  I actually haven't seen any of the old movies, but I'm going to assume that they—at least the Japanese ones—don't use Japan and its people as merely the backdrop against which white protagonists can shine and save the day.  And that's essentially what the new film does: the main character, Ford Brody, is a white man who heroically fights to destroy the Mutos.  He knows a little more about the Mutos because his father was obsessed with researching them, but where are all the Japanese characters who researched them, too?  Nonexistent, really—except for Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, one of the members of a monster research group.

The funny thing about Dr. Serizawa is that he doesn't really DO anything.  He says some of the key lines in the film, like: "[Godzilla] will restore the balance," and "The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around," and "Let them fight" (referring to Godzilla and the Mutos).  I honestly think I might have heard those lines in Avatar: The Last Airbender—that's how much they seem like the stereotypical "Asian words of wisdom."  Except that's basically all Serizawa's character does.  He doesn't even really contribute anything substantial to the research about the Mutos.

None of this is to say the film wasn't enjoyable to watch—it was.  I will say it was kind of sad that the Mutos died, because they were actually pretty cute when they weren't viciously attacking Godzilla.  And there were a lot of things that didn't make sense.  But if you're looking for a fun science-fiction movie to watch, this is a good one.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Our First Pet Rabbit Jason Sr.

Around 10 years ago, we found Jason hopping on the street and brought him home. Later, we placed flyers all over the neighborhood and found his owner, but she decided that she didn't want him back after all, so we kept him. He was the best pet bunny.

Jason had a strange un rabbit-like habit of rolling the beach ball around.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blood Moon aka Tax Day Lunar Eclipse

I don't know about you, dear followers, but I'm really excited about this lunar eclipse. It's going to be the first total lunar eclipse in a while and frankly the first one I'll ever see in the young 15 years I've been alive. While kids my age are freaking out about Coachella, or just recently getting back from the hectic music festival, my friend and I are researching charts and articles to send to eachother and basically anything else having to do with this "Blood Moon". (I know, we're pretty nerdy) I'll be able to see the eclipse tonight (April 14) to early morning (April 15). If it's cloudy outside, NASA will have live coverage during the eclipse so you can still watch this rare event! IT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW SO GO WATCH QUICKLY. THE LIVE STREAM IS EQUALLY COOL AND THEY'rE PLAYING RAD MUSIC TO GO WITH IT if YOU FEEL like you're missing out!

I'm sorry this is really spazzy and most likely badly written, but I need to go watch the eclipse now. Basically the the moon will be covered by the Earth's shadow/umbra and the United States won't be able to witness this again until 2019. I'll update this more after the eclipse and fix anything later!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hot Pot!

Dad’s been on a business trip in Taiwan since last week; he’s been sending us pictures of all the delicious food he’s been eating!  We were getting a little jealous, and finally my mom decided to take us out to dinner at a Taiwanese restaurant she’d heard about in San Gabriel Valley.  After driving around and using my phone’s GPS to find the place, we arrived to discover that it was...closed.  

My mom decided to try a different Taiwanese restaurant nearby that she remembered going to.  It was located in a plaza that we go to all the time for vegetarian Chinese cuisine, but we hadn’t really been to any of the other restaurants there in a while.  As it turned out, the last time my mom had been to the Taiwanese restaurant was years ago—and the restaurant closed down recently.

As we were headed back to the car, we noticed a Mongolian Hot Pot restaurant called Little Sheep.  I’ve always been a fan of Mongolian BBQ, and we occasionally make our own hot pot at home, so we decided to try it out.

I can assure you it tastes a lot better than it looks.
Basically, you order a bunch of meat and vegetables to be cooked in a giant pot of hot broth; everyone has a bowl to mix their own sauces in (I like to mix hot sauce, soy sauce, and garlic sauce), and then you dip the meat/vegetables in the sauce.  My new favorite is taro—it takes a while to cook and soften, but it’s delicious.

Taro (yum!) and some other vegetables to cook in the hot pot.
At the end, you can even mix some of the broth in with your sauce and drink it that way.  It’s a fantastic way to enjoy a meal with a group of people.

...Not so much with just 3 people (me, my mom, and my sister).  We ate a little too much and spent a little too much.  Still worth it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Introducing Visual Novels!

My sister and I have always really enjoyed video games.  I'm by no means a gamer girl, but I can be sucked into the worlds of League of Legends (biggest time-killer ever) and Super Paper Mario (my life in middle school) for hours at a time.

While I do love me a good action role-playing-game, I've recently gotten into visual novels.  Popular in Japan, they haven't really made a big splash in the U.S. yet.  Visual novels are basically a cross between choose-your-own adventure books and video games, so I get the satisfaction of reading a book and the fun of playing a video game.   They're usually narrated in first-person perspective.  The artwork is often done in an anime-style, but that's not always the case—especially in the visual novels that are being produced by western indie developers.

Read on for a list of some of my favorite visual novels by genre, which I'll probably add to in the future:

Area-X - a science-fiction/mystery visual novel by Zeiva Inc., a game developer that was founded and is run by two people (they're awesome and I'm jealous of their artistic and programming skills).  Area-X is about Elcia, a time-traveler from the future, and her efforts to unravel the mystery of her past.  Along the way, she meets and interacts with various characters from different time periods, and depending on your choices throughout the story, the plot varies tremendously.  The plot is well-written, incredibly complicated, and well-thought out; you get a lot of twists and turns, and it keeps you on your toes.  I love the artwork and the music, too.  

It's a little pricey at $25, but you can play the demo here. 

Screenshot of the main menu from Zeiva Inc's Area-X.

Dysfunctional Systems - Another science-fiction visual novel about Winter, a student mediator who travels between worlds and planets in order to restore peace to them.  It's a pretty unique story that's broken up into episodes.  So far, only the first episode is released, but it's only $5 on the iTunes store and the graphics and interface are well worth the cost.  Check out the ridiculously awesome video intro below:

Isn't the animation great?  And that music!

Bionic Heart 2 - A visual novel set in the future that switches between the perspectives of four different main characters: Luke Black, Tanya Vanic (a cyborg!), Tom Sparks, and Tina Gomez.  On Mars, you follow Luke and Tom as they try to live as fugitives on the Mars colony.  On Earth, you follow Tanya, an outlawed cyborg, and Tina, a police officer, as they work together to bring down Nanotech, a research company with a diabolical leader.  The game was produced by Winter Wolves, one of the leading western visual novel developers.

This would be a lot easier to explain if you knew about the first game, Bionic Heart, which I haven't even played.  I probably should get around to doing that—but Bionic Heart 2 is a great game on its own.  The free demo is pretty lengthy and should give you a good idea of what the story and gameplay are like.

A screenshot from Bionic Heart 2.

Jisei - The first of a series of mystery visual novels, Jisei follows a male protagonist who has the ability to experience the death of any corpse he touches.  When he accidentally comes across a dead woman, he's suddenly framed for the murder.  The story is about his efforts to prove himself innocent by tracking down the real murderer.

Jisei was produced by Sakevisual, another leading visual novel developer in the West.  It currently has two sequels, Kansei and Yousei.  

Poster from Sakevisual's Jisei.
X-Note - also by Zeiva Inc., X-note is set after Area-X (the prequel) and follows Essi, a young girl with psychic abilities, who is recruited to help investigate a murder and a number of disappearances at the Xen Institute, a local school.  As Essi learns more about the history of the school and the disappearances, she also uncovers information about her mother's death.  Along the way, she encounters a number of different characters.  Depending on the route you choose and the choices you make throughout, you can reveal different pieces of the mystery.  

Promotional artwork for Zeiva Inc's X-Note.

Nicole - another game by Winter Wolves but entirely different from Bionic Heart, Nicole is about college freshman Nicole as she meets guys at school and attempts to investigate a number of students' mysterious disappearances around campus.  While its central plot is about the mystery, Nicole is arguably just as much a dating sim as it is anything else (meaning you have to raise different stats to pursue different male characters).  Still, the story is interesting and I think it's worth taking a look at before you dismiss it as a typical dating sim.

You can try the free demo on Winter Wolves' website or buy the game for $20.

Screenshot from Nicole.


In case you don't mind playing a few visual novels that involve actively pursuing romantic interests (don't worry, I picked ones with good plots), you can try these out.

Summer in Fairbrook - yet another game produced by Winter Wolves!  It's about Steve McFarland, a young college student whose grades, love life, and general approach to things are kind of a mess.  His dad sends him to work on his uncle's farm in a small town called Fairbrook, where he's supposed to build character.  While he's there, he ends up meeting a bunch of different pursuable girls.  The artwork is adorable (and the artist is the same person who did the art for the Jisei series).

This is definitely a stats-based dating sim, so it can get a little repetitive.  Depending on the choices you make, you can unlock different scenes and endings for each character.

You can download the demo for free or buy the game ($20 for Mac, Windows, and Linux, $6.99 for Android).

Promotional image from The Flower Shop.

Winter in Fairbrook - set in the same town as Summer in Fairbrook and including a few of the same characters, Winter in Fairbrook is about Natalie, a college student who needs a summer job and ends up working at a flower shop in the town of Fairbrook.  There, Natalie meets a number of different pursuable guys.  Like Summer in Fairbrook, this is more a dating-sim than it is a visual novel, so it involves raising stats more than it does making choices that alter the plot.  Depending on the choices you make and the stats you raise, you can unlock different scenes and endings for each character.

I personally thought this game was adorable—the character designs are great, and the music is very relaxing.  The way the story is written makes it very cozy and enjoyable, and the characters are all very likable (I love Natalie; she's hilarious!).  It's written by Ayu Sakata, founder of Sakevisual.

You can download the free demo from the website or from the Google Play Store, or you can buy it ($20 for Mac, Windows, and Linux, and $9.99 for Android from the Google Play Store).

Illustration from Winter in Fairbrook.
Free Games

A lot of Western indie visual novel developers break into the business by releasing some free titles, and a lot of them are very good.  Try these out if you want to get a sense of what visual novels are like without having to purchase anything.  You should also try demos of commercial games.

RE: Alistair++ - A short, fun visual novel by Sakevisual about Merui, a girl who loves playing an online RPG called Rivenwell Online, where she meets an obnoxious player under the screen name of Alistair.  When she figures out that he is a student at her school, she winds up betting him that she'll be able to figure out who he is.  Throughout the story, she interacts with 3 male characters, each of whom could be the mysterious Alistair.  It's more a dating sim than it is a true visual novel, but it's quirky, cute, well-illustrated, and well-written.  It's worth trying out.

Promotional image for RE: Alistair++

The Dolls' Stories - a very short visual novel with a unique premise: you live in a world in which soldiers can raise and train ceramic, humanlike dolls to help enforce laws and keep the peace within the city.  Playing as a soldier, you can choose to raise either a male or a female doll, each of which has a different route.  The artwork is gorgeous and the story is both action-packed and dramatic.

Main menu of The Dolls' Stories
That's all for now!  I'll come back to update this at some point.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

All the Big Events During the Holiday Season

This holiday season will probably be the best time of the year for me because of all the things I'm looking forward to. Most of it has to do with relatively (okay very) nerdy things, such as movies, television series release dates, conventions, etc...yet I'm also just looking forward to the fact that it's around holiday time and that I'm almost finished with my first semester with barely any issues, if any at all. I'm looking forward to break.

When I do get free time, a lot of it is spent on being excited about the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary movie, The Day of the Doctor.  You can see the exciting trailers for The Day of the Doctor here and here. There were at least four doctors in this one episode (Tennant, Smith, Hurt, Capaldi). It's a really big deal (at least in my opinion) especially with it showing in theaters for the first time. I could barely get tickets because most were sold out. In the end, I had to sit in the second row from the screen in the Century City AMC. But still, the movie was great.

Before that, I went to a Supernatural Convention, which was my very first TV series specific nerd fan convention. It was as amazing as everyone insisted it was going to be. I made fan buttons and gave one to Misha Collins. I had a photo op with him too. By the way, I met Osric Chau, the Asian American actor who has appeared on Supernatural this season. He was so cool and funny, and extremely nice to chat with me and my friend. I got his autograph too.

Osric Chau

The Hunger Game (Catching Fire) started, and The Hobbit, Part 2, and  BBC's Sherlock season 3 will be starting soon.  "Truly, the tales and songs fall utterly short of your enormity, oh Smaug the stupendous," says Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug trailer. That basically got me hooked, and after seeing the first movie I want to see the second one with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, both which are some of my favorite actors. (If I haven't mentioned already.)

Finnick, a new character in the Hunger Games series.
I saw Thor: The Dark World the other day with my mom as well. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was personally my favorite character, and perhaps one of the most intelligent in comparison to the other characters.

I've been also pretty hyped up because of Bakuman (which my sister recommended a while ago in one of our blogs, yet I've just started).
Other mangas and animes I've been reading/watching include, Adventure Time on Cartoon Network,  (I know some of the artists who are doing the animation there!), the debut of the new Cartoon Network show (which is reallllyyyy cute looking) Steven UniverseAttack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin...which is personally one of my favorites, yet my mom disagrees), and hearing more about Bryan Lee O'Malley's secretive Seconds comic he's working on. (Author of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World)

Seconds by Brian Lee O'Malley

A lot of these events is to take my mind off of highschool and art. It seems to be working since it seems to be all I can think and talk about as the year comes to an end.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Role Model for All of Us: Malala Yousafzai

For one of the college applications I am working on, I had to write about someone I'd like to hear speak. It's an easy choice this year: Malala Yousafzai.  This is what I wrote in part:

Malala Yousafzai
On October 9 2012, a bearded man climbed aboard a bus full of schoolchildren and shot 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head.  The gunman was a Taliban assailant, sent to assassinate the girl for speaking against the Taliban’s denial of education to women.  Now, only a little over a year after waking up from her coma, Malala is far from being silenced—she has become a teenage icon of  purpose and bravery, continuing to speak out in support of universal access to education.

As a teenager attending a private school, I often forget how privileged I am to be receiving an education, and I take it for granted.  Sometimes I feel as though I go to school only to please my parents or to work towards a far-off goal of getting a well-paying job.  I often feel that our education system teaches us how to fit into society rather than how to make a difference, and sometimes I wonder how I can make an impact in a world that is constantly changing. 

Upon seeing an interview of Malala, however, a girl who is younger than I am, I came to understand that I am fortunate enough to receive an education—something for which people have to fight and are willing to die.  Malala’s fight for universal access to education makes me realize that education should be a fundamental human right, and that we who are privileged enough to have access to education should make the most of it and have the courage to speak up in shaping a better world.

In the news last week, I read that the Taliban chose as head of the Pakistani Taliban, Mullah Fazlullah, the same person who ordered the attack on Malala a year ago. I can’t help but fear for Malala’s safety, but I also know that those forces that seek to suppress universal access to education will have an incredibly powerful adversary in the form of Malala, a teenager like myself, who speaks up for what she knows is right and who quietly refuses to back down.

For inspiring young people like me to be unafraid of speaking up to make changes to the world, Malala is truly a shining example of an international leader. For this reason, I think Malala Yousafzai should be Role Model of the Year.

We Reached 30,000 Page Views! Thanks Everyone!

It's been almost 3 years since we started this blog. Sometimes we work on it diligently, (mostly summers and holidays). Other times, we have so much school work and other fun things going on that we barely have time to write . . . and you know, writing coherently takes time.  But somehow, as we fret about what new things to write about and not having time to write, readers out there are still discovering us and giving us encouragement through comments, emails, and tweets!

Thanks for staying with us and continuing to read our blog.

Eileen and Chloe
(The gif above is from Follow her there if you have a tumblr account!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

First Things First: ROBOTICS!

School started last month, and the robotics team is back to working on...robots.  You can read about our nail biting experiences with Mindstorm Middle School Robotics in The Robo Games Trilogy, high school all girls Vex adventure in Competition Made for Nerds, and High School Robotics.

This year's a little different—Our team is called the Omnicats. We're competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) rather than last year's VEX Robotics Competition.  What does that mean?  FRC is a little bit more complex, for a number of reasons: 1) the robots are bigger; 2) we're not limited to VEX robotics parts (meaning more materials are acceptable); 3) the games are more complex.

What's the challenge this year?  "Ultimate Ascent" requires that we build a robot that throws frisbees through a slot.  Check out the video for the challenge this year.

We're tweaking the robot that last year's senior robotics team built for this competition (because some things definitely didn't work out). We are building a new chasis from scratch using
a new mechanum drive system, and we are working on new code, and have a new
intake system for the frisbees. It's a long process...but definitely a fun and rewarding one at the end of the day.

My friends working on dismantling last season's robot.
Even though I have to be in school from 8 to noon on Saturdays to help out with the robot, I enjoy it because my friends are there with me.  And besides, it's not like we don't have the time to goof off.

See?  We're not always working.
Anyway, robotics is a great chance for me to unwind after a long day of school—they're not joking around when they say that senior year of high school is tough!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book Reccomendations: John Green and Tamora Pierce

This summer, I participated in the Los Angeles Public Library reading club and read away. Books are the best company during the summer. Even though I enjoy watching television shows and playing on the computer, sometimes getting away from electronics and just reading a book is really satisfying.  Even though we posted a book list a little while ago, it was on books written by Asian authors. Those books we love a lot, but we also have a few favorites not related to Asian culture, acceptance and whatnot.

Let us start with one of our favorite authors, John Green. (I've only read two as of now but my sister has read quite a few). As a teenager, I feel like I can really connect to his books and they all have really deep meanings to them. The two I have read are: The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for AlaskaThe Fault in Our Stars is about a a girl named Hazel Grace Lancaster. Hazel has cancer. She goes to a cancer therapy class and one day she meets Augustus Waters a cancer-free, funny, handsome, and smart guy. I don't want to give anything away because it's seriously such a wonderful book you have to read it. (Although I must warn you: All of John Green's books are inspiring, adorable, heart-wrenching, and wanting to crawl into fetal position-worthy).

I liked Looking For Alaska as well. It's about a boy named Miles Halter. (whew I almost forgot his name because I'm so used to calling him Pudge.) A lot of people compare Pudge to Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye, but personally I think Miles is a great character in his own right. Basically, Miles goes to boarding school and meets the beautiful and exciting, Alaska Young, intimidating yet sweet Colonel, and the fox, Takumi, and a few others. Basically, Pudge has friends for once. And he just does a lot of crazy things that touching and inspiring.

Over the summer, I also got into the Tamora Pierce books. Is it that embarassing since they were in the kids section? Noooo, not at all, I love them.  All of Tamora Pierce's books are set in medieval times, and the main characters are girls. I started with Alanna:The First Adventure. Alanna is the protagonist of The First Adventure. She's one of those protagonists you actually root for. I don't know about you but I always get annoyed with the girl protagonists acting like 'ahh i'm so conflicted between this guy or this guy. oh my gosh boy troubles'. Alanna is actually completely the opposite.  She has no time for such nonsense!

Anyway, most of Tamora Pierce's books come in quartets. I started with The Song of the Lioness quartet, I'm done with the Immortals, and am now going to read the Circle of Magic quartet. She has a few more that I'll read for sure also. Her books are funny, action packed, and also focus on growing up and adolescence. I think they're all quite good for teenagers to read. (I'm not really sure why it's in the kiddy section of the library...I don't think it should be) These books give me so much joy I don't even know why. It's also really nice getting a warm cup of coffee (except on ridiculously hot days like these maybe a cold drink) and curling up under the covers to read a good book. I'll probably post book recommendations once a month since there are so many good books out there but would take up too much time to read about in this one post.

Now go read a book!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


For all you manga and anime fans out there, I have a treat for you:

If you're at all familiar with popular manga and anime, I'm sure you've heard of Bakuman.  It was one of Shounen Weekly Jump's most popular manga series, and for good reason: the story is unique, the characters lovable, and the art detailed and fun.

Most of the manga I've read is centered around a few topics: high school romance, battles, magic, and cat ears.  Yes.  

Look at the super-cliche adorableness!  And the cat ears!
While I very much enjoy a good cliche shoujo manga myself, they're getting to be pretty predictable.  Bakuman came as a breath of fresh air, and it is now without a doubt my favorite manga.  When my friend first recommended Bakuman to me, I was skeptical.  It old him I would read it, but I kept on putting it off—the whole "slice of life" genre didn't really appeal to me.  But when I finally got around to checking it out, I couldn't put it down.  

What's it about, you ask?  Bakuman follows two boys, Mashiro Moritaka and Takagi Akito, as they chase their dream of becoming successful and popular mangakas (manga-writers).  The two learn all about what goes into making a popular manga as they develop their own unique style under the pen name of "Ashirogi Muto".  Behind the scenes, readers get to take a look at what the editorial department at Jump! is like.

Along the way, the Mashiro and Takagi encounter many rival mangakas as well as discover the benefits of supporting and encouraging each other to do their best.  Among these rivals is a manga-obsessed genius, a righteous and outspoken not-genius, and a genius who hates the idea of having to do work (yes, that includes drawing manga).

The main cast.
The story also has a romance aspect to it.  Mashiro's ultimate goal is to marry his long-time crush and girl of his dreams, Azuki Miho, after his manga becomes an anime and she becomes the leading voice actress.  Meanwhile, Takagi struggles with a number of interested girls while maintaining a relationship with his girlfriend, Miyoshi Kaya.

The girl Mashiro loves, Azuki Miho.

For someone like me, a teenager who would love to make a living off of doing something creative, this manga is truly inspiring and fun.  I love the camaraderie between Mashiro, Takagi, and even their rivals, and the story moves at a quick enough pace that it's hard for me to bring myself to stop reading.  

I have to admit that it's hard to summarize without losing a lot of the fun and excitement, but it's definitely worth checking out.  The complete box set comes out on October 1st, and if you preorder it now, it's $143 for all 20 volumes :3 (I'm still trying to convince my mom to let me get it, because it's a total steal).  It is well-worth the read, after all!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Last Book Store in DTLA

This summer, I spent a lot of time in downtown LA because of the three week-long creative writing class I took. After I became friends with my classmates, we hung out and explored downtown.  It was a lot of fun.

One of the discoveries I made with my friends is a book store called The Last Book Store.  The Last Bookstore is a used book store near Pershing Square at 453 S. Spring Street.  It’s not in the absolute safest of areas and definitely has some shady characters hanging around. I would not recommend going there alone at night. In keeping with the shadiness of the area, when you first enter the book store, there is a security guard sitting at a desk in the foyer. I definitely felt safer seeing him there.

Store window.
Once you step past the foyer and into the actual store, your first impression will be a big “wow.” The Last Book Store used to be an old bank that has been closed for decades.  It occupies two floors of the building. It still has the beautiful original art deco ceiling, balconies and mezzanines of the old bank.

The books on the first floor are organized by categories, a lot like those of a regular bookstore.  It’s a good place to look for required reading books for school at extremely low prices: most of the books here are $4-6, and a lot of them are in great condition.  The first floor also has some nice sofas to lounge on while taking a look at some of the books.

Some antiques in stores off the second floor.
The second floor, however, is not as neatly organized, but it’s definitely a treasure.  The shelves are piled high with books of all genres—perhaps not in the nicest conditions—but don’t count them out just because they’re not as nice as the books on the first floor.  The books on the second floor are literally $1 each.  Isn’t that incredible?  It’s almost that the books are organized randomly, because it really forces you to take a look at books of all genres.  The second floor is also home to the Vault of Horror and True Crime, which is literally an old bank vault filled with—you guessed it—horror and true crime books. 
The Vault of Horrors
Next time you’re visiting downtown LA, be sure to check out this great store.  Or, if you’re not in LA but in the area, try taking the metro—maybe you’ll find other hidden treasures.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Whole Day of Wussy Camping-at the El Capitan Canyon

Camping can be fun when you spend your time outdoors without the distraction of the internet, and you get to sleep in a sleeping bag in a tent. For kids, camping means playing in the woods or beach all day, making a camp fire, grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, or roasting marshmallows to make s’mores.

However, if you have parents who are such city folks and who think they are too old to go roughing it, what can you do to enjoy the camping life? Well, in Southern California, there is an experience called “glamping” where you can satisfy everyone. Glamping is “glamour camping”…well at least that’s what my parents call it. I personally call it wussy camping. We decided to go wussy camping in El Capitan Canyon for a day. One WHOLE day in the great outdoors.

They have luxury tents with beds and linen and comfortable mattresses along with their many luxurious cabins, pool, and wifi hot spots. All of the cabins have mini fridges, microwaves, coffee makers, fans, heating, showers, the whole shebang! So what’s different from a hotel, you say? Well they have a fire pit outside so you can get a tiny part of the camping experience. Along with bugs and wild animals (we saw skunks, squirrels, rabbits, and lizards. No bears as of now) of course. The cabins are also spaced out so each family has their own little area which make it seem sort of isolated I guess. (But to add to the glamping part they even have a spa a little walk away and a market and restaurant for those who forget to bring firewood, matches, or any food at all. Then you could just go and get a hamburger and fries.)
Cabin with nice bed for adults, loft for kids, kitchen and bathroom
Wussy as it may be, we had fun starting our own fire, hiking along the trails up the mountain, and stargazing at nighttime. Out here, unlike hotels or your own house, you can get a clear view of the many stars in our big galaxy. I could even see the milky way and a shooting star! It was very fascinating and fun pretending to be adventurous as we sat around the fire pit outside our cabin making s’mores and bacon only a few steps away from wifi and technology. This is a perfect place for everyone in the family.

Monday, July 29, 2013

What? I have to go to Summer School?

Summer break is one of the most anticipated times of the year for students, and it's easy to guess why: no school, no homework, no grades, and fun!  During the school year, I always look forward to summer vacation because it's always nice to have a break from stress and high school.

But about two weeks into the summer, I begin to worry about what to do with myself... I'd played all the video games I'd wanted to play, slept in as much as I wanted, and was basically just an all-around lazy bum, but I wasn't doing anything that was truly productive.  I now understand that being a lazy bum can only be fun for so long.

That's where summer class comes in: Chloe took her t-shirt making class and just finished up an intensive painting class at UCLA, and I'm taking a creative writing class  as part of the Community Arts Partnership Summer Arts program in downtown LA, sponsored by Cal Arts.  

At CAPSA, I've been spending every day from 10-5 writing.  Though the focus is on poetry, I have had some chances to work on writing short stories, and I've definitely developed a love for poetry, too.  The best part is that the class doesn't even feel like class—it's just me and a bunch of writerly friends...writing. Being in the class has helped me realize that writing may be something I would like to pursue in the future.  Even though it's nice to lounge around the house, having work to do has been something of a relief to both of us.  Imagine that!

A lot of my friends are at summer camp right now, which is another productive way to spend your summer.  At least these organized activities keep us from wasting away our lives on the living room couch!

I say all of this now, but I know that when my class is done, I'll be back in front of the TV killing brain cells.  

Story of my life.
...when I'm not in class.

How do you like to spend your summer? 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Compartes Chocolate and Craft In America

I went to a chocolate appreciation/printing workshop at this funky place called Craft in America when summer first started. The class was not so much as making chocolate itself (although that would've been fun) but making chocolate wrappers using the monotype printing process. 

Me and the monotype printer
In the class, while we worked on designing the wrappers, we were supplied with chocolate truffles from Compartes. ( 912 S. Barrington Avenue Los Angeles CA 90049) Jonathan Grahm from Compartes told us about how took over his family's chocolate business as a teenager and transformed and expanded it all over the world. He also talked about how he came up with the designs for his chocolate bar wrappers, and how he printed designs onto he chocolate truffles. The chocolate was delicious but the intricate designs on both the wrappers and the chocolates (the colors being edible of course) are art in themselves. Each chocolate tells a story, with their vibrant colors and taste. Depending on the theme whether it's a holiday, an event, or different parts of the world, the chocolate and the design both match the theme. All of the chocolates are amazing (yet expensive). 

Yes, these are truffles.

Jonathan Grahm is the owner, artist, and chocolatier of Compartes. He integrates art, flavors, different cultures, and different styles together to create his gourmet chocolates. For his newest chocolate series, Jonathan researched graphic design and different cultures around the world to create the perfect chocolate that corresponds with each place around the world he based his chocolate off of.

Compartes chocolate bars

Jonathan's designs are especially amazing since he never even studied graphic design before.

Making wrappers using monotype printing was also very fun. We would paint on a piece of plastic and then place a piece of paper on top and roll them both through a machine to transfer our designs onto the paper. While we designed the wrappers we also got to eat some delicious chocolate truffles from Compartes.

My chocolate wrapper

The paper printing class was sponsored by Craft In America who has been doing some interesting workshops on art and food. The class was taught by Christina Carroll and is held in the Craft in America building located at 8415 West Third Street. The building is small, but has some beautiful craft and art on display.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Great Documentary Film: Somewhere Between

Last weekend, we watched a documentary film on Netflix called "Somewhere Between", directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton, that follows the lives of four adopted Chinese-American teen girls.  I have a few adopted Chinese friends, and I guess I never really thought much of their back stories, but the film was incredibly eye-opening.  Each of the girls has her own struggles with her identity: Fang, who vividly remembers being abandoned on a sidewalk, continues to return to China and reach out to other orphaned girls; Hayley longs to know the reasons for her abandonment and seeks out her birth family; Jenna, a top student at a prestigious academy, constantly busies herself in after school activities to keep her mind off of the questions surrounding her abandonment; Ann, a pre-teen living in suburban Pennsylvania, doesn't show any particular interest in her biological family but is jealous when Hayley finds hers.

One of the things that is so striking about the girls in the film is their resilience: through their struggles growing up "somewhere between", the girls demonstrate an intelligence and understanding far beyond their years.

I have a few adopted Chinese friends.  Sometimes I wonder how they feel about their birth families and adoption. I don't quite have the gall to ask them about it myself, perhaps because I know how delicate the subject can be, especially considering Chinese culture's pattern of abandoning baby girls in favor of raising boys.  "Somewhere Between" provides a lot of insight into the various thoughts and feelings of different adopted Chinese girls.  The film beautifully captures a wide range of emotions—happiness, despair, loneliness, curiosity—and had me laughing and crying along with the girls.  I would highly recommend it; it's a film that everyone should watch, regardless of whether or not they know any adopted Chinese kids, because anyone can relate to its theme of being an outsider and trying to find a place in society.

I give it a two thumbs up.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

T-Shirt Making Class and Lumi Co.

So for the entire last week, I was at a T-Shirt making class with a friend of mine. The class is a program for high school students at ArtCenter in Pasadena.  It was also, much to our surprise, a business class (more so than a t-shirt making class). We learned how to license our products and copyright our designs, which of our designs would sell better, and how to advertise our designs.

Before this camp, I had made t-shirts with my cousin using screen printing which is very time consuming. I wanted to take the class so that I can learn different ways to print on t-shirts that are both more efficient and to place more detailed graphics on them.

At this Art Center camp, we first designed what we wanted to put on our t-shirts and scanned them into the computer. You can also draw your designs directly on the computer too. Then we formatted it on a 11x17 canvas size and turned the images into negatives.
Negative of my T-shirt design
We emailed our designs to Lumi Co. who then printed our designs out on film. Lumi Co. is  a company that has created a new type of dye called Inkodye that is clear when rolled on to a surface, but becomes colored when exposed to direct sunlight. The Inkodye colors come through the transparent part of our film, but remains clear where the film is black because the black parts block the sunlight and prevents the dye from activating. If the film has grey tones, then a little bit more light gets in to form a gradient. What's more amazing is the fact that Lumi Co was founded by a young woman called Jesse Genet, who started the company when she was only 16. We met her. She was really nice. Her company is in this artist's colony at the Brewery, a live work place for cool artists.

Here's a link to Lumi Co's website where they explain how the print process takes place.

My teammates modeling the T-shirts I made.
With the Lumi Co. dyes you can experiment a lot more than you can with screen printing. However, if you want your designs to look exact with more colors, I would suggest screen printing. Both are very time consuming (so you might want to get a company to print t-shirts if you were looking for mass production). However, DYI is a lot of fun to do. I'll be making my own T-shirts soon, so look for them my store site at

By the way, I sold three of my T-shirts for a total of $90! Not bad eh?