Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Hair-Cutting Ceremony

In Buddhist culture, for anyone who wants to enter the monastery and become a monk, they must first shave their head. It's a ritual, meant to represent the purging of material goods and desires from one's soul. When Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism and born a prince, renounced his royal heritage to find Enlightenment, he first cut off his long hair.

The Sikh never cut their hair, wearing it long and in a turban. It is a symbol of their spirituality. Yet now that more young Sikh men are cutting their hair, the act is a sign of greater modernization and a gradual loss of the old ways.

In Ancient Greece, it was the slaves who were bald, while the wealthy and influential wore their hair long. So hair can divide classes.

When the prince deflowered Rapunzel, the witch cut off her hair and cast her out of the tower. Hair is a transitional state.

I never really thought about the significance of hair cutting, having not cut my hair short since senior year of high school. Yet something about it always signaled a big change of some sort, one that I was not sure I was ready for, and prior, not really sure I understood what it would symbolize.

So when I cut my waist-length hair up to my chin, there was something symbolic, almost freeing. Like a renouncing of the world and its possessions, except not quite so materialistic. It was a change, almost signaling an entrance into the adult world, and that transition from not knowing to finally understanding.

Or perhaps its just hair and now it's one less thing to have hanging over your head.

Short-haired Diep (Not to be confused with short Diep, which is everyday)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas in California

One of my friends at SU, Leah, who specializes in classical music (and is proudly Irish) is a New York state native and she once said, "I can't imagine not having four seasons a year? How can you stand it in California?"

To which I replied, "I can't imagine actually having four seasons."

Which is why going back to California for the holiday was like waking up from a long, exhausting sleep, back to a place where everything is filled with sunshine - green, alive and familiar.

Because no matter how hauntingly beautiful a White Christmas is, to this California girl, there's nothing alive underneath the snow and icicles. Times like that, it reminds me what home feels like, it's what recharges you, some sunshine out of the gray.

Merry Christmas!

The Waiting Game or How to Make Caramel (Updated With Pictures!)

One of my favorite past-times is baking. For me, I take a line from the movie "Julie and Julia" (I tend to quote movie lines, which are incredibly easy to remember), which says, "I love that after a day when nothing is can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It's such a comfort."

Take the uncertainty of life as a writer, where you never know if anyone will ever get back to you for an interview, or if an editor will love or hate your story, it's part of the reason why I bake.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Halfway Point, or, 6 Months Later

What can you learn in 6 months?

If you asked me that this time last year, from July to December, I would say another handful of book knowledge, gleaned from reading Shakespeare and art history textbooks. And a realization that I am definitely not the friends-with-benefits type (though that is another story).

Yet compare last year to this year, or even, just June, when I graduated from UCLA, to December, 6 months (and halfway) into graduate school, then the expanse is wide, the knowledge base denser and the miles...well, it's endless. It's one end of the country to the next.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why You Should See 'Tangled' (And Why I Should See It Again)

I've been waiting for "Tangled" for a long time. Or rather, I've been waiting for "Rapunzel," for a long time, seeing how it's one of my favorite fairy tales. And after the last fairy tale, "Princess and the Frog," (while beautiful, was almost self-conscious in its attempt to tap into greatness) fell flat and lifeless for me, I was hoping that "Rapunzel" would be magical.

Then the trailer came out, with that gender-neutral title and that pop music soundtrack and modern lingo. And there evaporated my hopes that the film would feel like the traditional Disney animated fare, there was no way that "Tangled" could be the "Rapunzel" that I have loved since I was 6 years old. There was no way that the tag-line "She's been grounded for, like, ever" could be a "tale as old as time."

Until I finally saw "Tangled." And it was like all the bad faith evaporated.

In fact, I adored it so much that I'm listing the reasons why every person who ever loved a Disney movie should go see it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm (No Longer) Dreaming of a White Christmas

It's late at night, I have a cold, it's the end of my first semester and I'm not yet tired, so it's time for what may read like a stuffy head-induced ramblings. But I feel like times like these, it's when you're the most truthful because there's really no running commentary in your head that can second-guess every single statement that you're saying/writing. And this is my blog so I can write about whatever I want in however way I want it.

When I was younger, I wanted four seasons. After all, I was living in California, which is not necessarily known for it's diverse temperatures. Then I lived in England for a while and I had my first real snowy winter. And by snowy, it snowed for about two weeks, the university shut down, then everything melted. It was a fluke of a storm.

But no, there are no such things as flukes or halfhearted weather changes in Syracuse. When it snows, it snows.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

After the Deadline

While most writers may look forward, and also dread, the approaching deadlines, rampart emotions do not end when the deadline comes.

Oh no.

With most writer, anytime you turn something in, there will be that moment of pure relief, like the lifting of Atlas' world from your shoulders and you suddenly feel like you can breathe again, until the next story comes along (or if you're working on a story, until you get back to writing, which will be within the next 20-30 minutes).

Then, immediately thereafter, there will be dread. Almost a feeling of pure hatred for the work that you just turned in and a certainty that the editor will hate it just as much and you will lose that little of credibility that you had.

Yet on the other hand, while you may hate it and have every reason to believe that the editor will too, you also want them to love it, as a validation of your hard work and your skills (which you never think you have enough of.

And then, probably a month or two or three later, you'll be bored one night and decide to re-read your old writings. And as you're reading them, you'll come across a sentence that'll make you laugh or that I think is really well-constructed and then you'll think, "Damn, I'm good."

And that's as close to confidence as you'll ever get, that moment where you're finally allowed to pat yourself on the back for a job well done and believe that brilliance will carry on to your next project.

And then you'll agonize over a new piece and think you're the most mediocre writer in existence.

Though I do think this piece that just came out on Monday is quite good. Perhaps my most accomplished yet.

Until I read it again in another 6 months and laugh at myself and how amateur my writing was. It never ends.

What are your thoughts reader?

"Bringing Up Baby - And Acting Too"

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Theater Review: "Brief Encounter"

If you've ever been in love, like hopelessly, maddeningly, extraordinarily in love, then Noel Coward's "Brief Encounter," will feel all too familiar. Because who hasn't, when they were in a relationship, felt they were flying, or drowning, or just no longer able to be sensible?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkey Lurkey Time

In my family, Thanksgiving is a time for patriotism and having lobster and crabs.

Growing up, my family had traditional American Thanksgiving exactly one time. My dad had bought a ham home one year (from work) and after some pestering on my part (naturally), my sisters and my mom finally used our oven. In Asian households, ovens are used for storage.

So my sisters and my mom prepared everything the way I always imagined it, the honey-glazed ham, the mashed potatoes and gravy, the fall vegetables (a medley of corn, sweet potatoes, carrots - orange and yellows). And we also had an Vietnamese vegetable soup as a palette cleanser. The ultimate fusion.

Then after, the clean-up was so heinous that my family has never prepared Thanksgiving dinner in quite this way since. This year, my family back in California went out for seafood, a yearly tradition.

Now, drunk off of turkey and too many glasses of champagne, it's allowed me to be a bit introspective about the holiday, the first time I'm away from home. Yet I'm still able to have a real Thanksgiving, courtesy of my sister and my brother-in-law, and some in-law relatives who live in the Hamptons.

I helped prepare my first turkey today.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Theater Review: 'The Language Archive'

You ever had one of those times when the word is on the tip of your tongue, standing right at the precipice between the subconscious part of your brain and the conscious part, but try as you might, damnit! You just can't think of the words?

"The Language Archive" by Julia Choi takes that scenario and turns it into two very muddled hours. George (Matt Letscher) is a linguist who has trouble communicating with his wife (oh the delicious irony!), Mary (Heidi Schreck) who leaves him.

Meanwhile, George's coworker, Emma (Betty Gilpin) is in love with him, a feeling that only intensifies as they try to get an old married couple, Alta (Jayne Houdy Shell) and Resten (John Horton) to speak to each other in their native tongues, a language that is soon to be extinct.

And there's the conundrum, George is more obsessed with saving an ancient language than his marriage.

Theater Review: "Knock Me a Kiss

Family drama is played for laughs in Charles Smith's "Knock Me a Kiss." A romanticized retelling of the marriage between Yolande Dubois, the daughter of civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois, and poet Countee Cullen during the Harlem Renaissance, the play traffics in superficial comedy at the expense of complex characters.

DuBois, concerned more with pedigree than love, orchestrates the match for his daughter unaware that Cullen is gay. Yolande, who has an infantile notion of romance, rejects a proposal from jazz-band conductor Jimmy Lunceford, whom she loves, in part to cement her position in society. Of course, the truth inevitably comes out.

Read the rest at Back Stage.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to be a Good Critic

The short end: have an opinion and stick to it.

The long end: Siskel and Ebert says it so much better than I do.

I know for me, something I struggle with is opinions, or the correlations thereof. Sometimes there are things I see that I actively dislike it but others might enjoy.

Then you wonder, is my opinion wrong? Do I have no taste? One thing you learn, especially after writing papers at university (especially if you got a BA in English like I did), is that it's not about the opinion, it's about the support. And if you can support your criticism with well-reasoned statements, then no one can really fault you for having that opinion.

Though that doesn't mean that there will never be doubts. I just read a New York Times review of a play I saw Friday night, which I gave a dubious review for (Back Stage will post it up soon).

Neil Genzlinger was more positive than I was. Who is correct?

Who knows.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Your Girl is Lovely, Hubble"

So I've been a little bit (a lot) busy lately, what with work and fighting off the stomach flu and filming around town for a class project. So as not to look like I'm completely blowing off the blog, I'm just going to leave you with a feeling.

"The Way We Were," which makes me cry every time I hear it and made me cry even harder after seeing this movie for the first time in September (don't judge, I grew up in an Asian family). And with this version of the song, performed by Barbra ("K-k-k-k-Katie!") herself during a recent taping of "Oprah," Babs proves that she still has it. And like Bernadette Peters, the woman also does not age.

And like this last scene in the movie didn't make you cry? Though according to the making-of information, the amount of footage cut from the movie made the reason Katie and Hubble split incomprehensible. Watching the movie for the first time, I didn't realize it, only because there was an intuitive sense that something wasn't quite right in the relationship and it was never going to work out. Like real-life relationships, sometimes you just can't work it out and love isn't really enough. Because life isn't the movies. Unless that movie is "The Way We Were."

But enough of that, little girl is going to bed now and fight off the last of this flu. Enjoy the Barbs!

Theater Review: "Turn of the Screw"

There is a moment in fear when time crawls to a halt, and the viewer can only look, frozen in horror, as the terror is slowly manifested before him or her. Two Turns Theatre Company's production of "The Turn of the Screw" slows down time but for entirely the wrong reasons.

Read the rest at Back Stage (aka, yay my first Back Stage review!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Write About Zombies

Say hello to the newest television recapper for "" Join me every Monday, readers, as I recap the newest episode of "The Walking Dead."

And now a recap of episode 2 of "The Walking Dead" with the "Zombie Kill of the Week."


And some other small bits of writing.

Music: "KT Tunstall: Tiger Suit"

Op-ed: "Want to Meet Stars? Go to the Theater"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Now for a Limited Time: Ideas!

One of my favorite professors ever, Johanna Keller (who is my very own personal Dumbledore) says that ideas are like water in the well.

And when you run out, it's time to refill the well. If these past two weeks have been any indication to me, it's that the well is working overtime. Having pitched four ideas for a web journalism class and gotten rejected on all of them, and having a story that I'm writing for Back Stage implode forcing me to think up three more ideas, I've been on constant idea generating mode.

So that brought my idea generating status to a grand total of 8 ideas in two weeks. And not counting updating this blog and starting work on my new column for "" called "Culture Ninja" (hyah!!).

And I will like to share with you readers, my idiot-proof way to think up feature article ideas, honed from a grand 2.5 years of journalism.

Diep's Handy-Dandy, Idiot-Proof Way to Generate Ideas

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Glee-view: "Rocky Horror Glee Show"


As you may or may have not noticed while reading this blog, I am not very secretive in my simultaneous fascination/disappointment with "Glee." So much so that I have dedicated multiple blog posts to that very subject.

So really, I felt that it was only a matter of time before I took to critiquing every "Glee" episode, especially since most of them contains musical references that I, as a musical theater geek (or "gleek"), should be kind to point out.

This post is a bit late since I spent this past week preparing for Halloween (which included me teasing my hair and making some pumpkin cookies and butterbeer), so there was not much time for writing.

Now I am back to long, theater-related posts and what better way to start than with the "Rocky Horror Glee Show."

Calling all Harry Potter fans! Butterbeer recipe

To honor the opening of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1," on Nov. 19, I make another guest-star appearance. This time on my friend Kathleen Hessman's food blog where she films me making butterbeer, that ubiquitous drink found in the "Harry Potter" series.

The recipe can also be found on the site.

And this, readers, is what professionals do during a party. And if you're a journalist, you have a camera to record every special moment so you can put it on your personal blog later.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkin and Cookies

When I was about 7 (give or take a year or two), my family carved the first and only pumpkin we would ever carve. I like to think it was because they loved me so much and wanted to give me a proper American Halloween. Though in actuality, it probably had something to do with me begging and begging to have a traditional American Halloween.

So we went out and bought a giant pumpkin and I watched as my dad and my older sister (Thao!), scooped out the pumpkin innards and carved out a traditional looking Jack-O-Lantern. Of course, no one told us the logistics of putting a candle in the pumpkin and lighting it up so we just had a hallowed out pumpkin sitting on the windowsill of the living room. It wasn't quite traditional but it was close enough.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Theater Review: "The 39 Steps" at Syracuse Stage

Gasp. It’s a political scandal. Ohh… It’s an unsolved murder. Ahh… It’s the slow caress of an ankle. Quick! It’s on the run.

It’s (pause for effect) The 39 Steps (cue dramatic music).

Read more at the Newshouse...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Theater Review: "Penelope"

Anyone familiar with Homer's "The Odyssey," will come in familiar with how "Penelope," a new play at St. Ann's Playhouse in Brooklyn, inevitably plays out.

Odysseus comes home, angered to find that his house has been turned into a den of licentious squalor and proceeds to massacre every one of Penelope's paramours.

"Penelope" differs from the traditional story-telling which paints the bachelors as unsympathetic villains. Instead it portrays them as sympathetic, multifaceted and ultimately tragic in their masculine pride. The play is written by Irish playwright Enda Walsh and presented by Druid Theatre Company. It received the first award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. St. Ann's marks the American premiere.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Apparently I'm Fashionable

One of the girls in my program, Avantika, who is also one of my housemate, is a fashion writer from the "mysterious subcontinent of India" (I love "Big Bang Theory") keeps a blog. Because that's the trend these days as a journalist, if you want to be respected, keep a blog. So 'Avantique' is where she photographs fashionable people in Syracuse and assess their outfit, ie: the most probing of critiques because, as any chef knows, presentation is everything.

Well most recently, she has critiqued an outfit from yours truly. And apparently I'm fashionable, who knew?

"Being Formal: Diep style."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Being Needy

I was never popular in high school. But it wasn't like I was actively disliked either. It was more like respect with a mixture of coldness. People did not talk to me and I did not talk to them. I went to prom with a clowder of females and I was never that girl the boys usually asked to dance.

So I guess, you can say that I was always a writer.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Weeks in Review

So I'm finally utilizing the hard-earned knowledge that I received in the three days that I'm in making a time-line (using Time Toast, which we used in Web Journalism) of my typical week. Now you, readers, will know how I can be in NYC and Syracuse at the same time!

Here is my typical week, Sunday to Sunday, with kitties!

And to illustrate just how productive I am, here's are some recently published items from "Back Stage."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Theater Review: 'A Little Night Music' and Sex

If "A Little Night Music" could be described in one word it would be this: sex.

Or rather, what sex means to the characters.

For Frederick Egerman (Stephen R. Buntrock), it means re-touching long-lost youth. For Anne Egerman (Ramona Mallory), it's a way of keeping her husband's interest (typical virgin move). For Henrik Egerman (Hunter Ryan Herlicka), it's sinful, dreadfully, excitable sinful (no wonder he's trying to become a priest). For Count Malcolm (Bradley Dean but today it was Ben Davis), it's possession and a sign of ownership (he is a military man after all). For Petra (Leigh Ann Larkin), it's about freedom and free love (because she's a maid, what does she have to lose?).

For Madame Armsfeldt (Elaine Stritch), it's memories of more golden (deliciously wicked) times.

For Desiree Armfeldt (Bernadette Peters)...who knows?

Oh Stephen Sondheim, you dirty dirty man.

Seasons of Mist

When I think of the eastern part of the United States, and this statement applies to before I moved over here and now, one image comes to my mind.

The lake is an essential part of the image.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Theater Review: 'A Chorus Line'

Difficulties in the Tuesday performance of A Chorus Line, presented by the Famous Artist Broadway Theater Series and playing at the Oncenter, proved that a chorus line is only as strong as the performers within it.

First the show was delayed by 25 minutes when a lead actor had to be replaced at the last minute (by SU alumnus Nick Nerio). Then, during the show, sound glitches could be heard in two key numbers, one where the music overpowering the singers, and static in parts of one song.

Such things are unavoidable sometimes and the only thing then that can be done is to continue singing and dancing. And dance they did, in stirring synchronicity. But when it came to the overall performances, the show was a mixed bag.


Live in HD: "Das Rheingold"

If you love opera & Star Trek (and maybe Meatloaf), click on the photo!

The world begins with one note: an E flat.

One note and a horizontal, undulating beam of blue light begins "Das Rheingold," the first installment in Richard Wagner's epic "Ring" cycle. The prelude, or "Vorspiel," is my favorite opening piece of music, a gradual accumulation of strings bubbling steadily upwards, reaching a fevered pitch that can then only be reigned by the crystal-clear voices of three mermaids, swimming in mid-air, bubbles coming from their lips.

Confused yet?

Think "Lord of the Rings," but with gods, and devils and people singing in German.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Le Jazz Hot! and Glee!

I now have a theory.

Chris Colfer, Kurt/Ryan Murphy's doppelganger from "Glee," was probably a Broadway diva in another life.

Perhaps Ethel Merman was reborn into this life as a gay man. Or he's where Julie Andrew's lost voice went.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Impossible Dream at ActorFest 2010

In the musical "Man of La Mancha," Don Quixote, while standing beside a suit of armor, responds to a query of why he continues with his, seemingly impossible, quest. Naturally, since this is a musical and what theater professors would call the "major dramatic question," he responds in song.
"To dream ... the impossible dream ...
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ..."
And so on and so forth. Brian Stokes Mitchell (one of the sexiest bass voices on Broadway) sings a beautiful version of this song.

His voice was running through my head as I was standing looking at actors scurry back and forth at ActorFest, a convention for actors to mingle with industry professionals and hopefully make an impression.

I was guarding a door to a workshop, one that cost $36 and was about how to audition for commercials. I had a view of the convention floor since I was standing on the first balcony. 5,100 hundred had pre-registered. There were more that had not. And all looked like insects on that floor, scurrying back and forth, a cacophony of voices and nerves that seemed to permeate the air with anxiety and neurosis.

Theater Review: "Dramatis Personae"

Fiction writing has never been as painful as it is in “Dramatic Personae,” where characters come to life, haunt, sometimes even threaten to stab the author until they finish writing.

That is the situation that the writers within “Dramatic Personae” find themselves in. Written by Peruvian playwright Gonzalo Rodriguez Risco’s and funded by the Playwright's Realm (which produces one work a year from up-and-coming playwrights), the play made its premiere Off Broadway at the Cherry Lane Studio on Oct. 1.

The play follow three writers - Lucas (Felix Solis), Ben (Gerardo Rodriquez) and Marla (Liza Fernandez) - as they try and transform their slivers of ideas into stories, holding weekly meetings to try and develop those ideas, all the while asking the eternal question of any writer: "Where does inspiration come from?" Real life? Some dark recesses of the mind?

This all occurs during the Peru’s political conflict of the early 1990’s, which happens in the background and the audience never sees it, save for the occasional explosion which is treated as a nuisance rather than a catastrophe.

There is a semblance of something achingly like conflict. Yet the title “Dramatis Personae” acts as its own plot summary. It is not a political drama.

Friday, October 1, 2010

In Which Writing Invades My Life

The worst, and maybe the best thing about being a writer are that ideas come from everywhere. They come from the things you do, the people you meet, that piece of gum lying on the sidewalk that sticks to your shoe. It seeps in from every direction and you never know when it might hit. That's the best thing, everything is inspiration.

And that's also the worst, EVERYTHING is inspiration.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Free Night of Theater?! But How?

So I realized that I have not yet posted the results of the internship that I was coveting, the one that caused me to reject a paid internship position in Syracuse. Readers, I am proud to report that you are looking at one of the two fall interns for Back Stage, also known as "The Actor's Resource," that publication where if you're in the entertainment industry, you read it like the Bible. Heck, for some actors, it might as well be.

Well, one of the great things about working for Back Stage is it almost forces me to be up to date on industry events. Interns are responsible for putting the weekly events listings together. It's not the most stimulating of tasks, it has me spending hours upon mind-numbing hours scouting different websites for events that might be interesting to actors. But I did stumble upon this:

Free night of theater!

All throughout October, different venues across the country will be offering free tickets to their theatrical show. From a marketing perspective, it's ingenious, it's a way to raise interest in a theater company. Because anyone who works in the business knows, once a patron trusts your company's taste, they keep coming back. How is it I didn't know about this when I was in Los Angeles? Though I'm glad, you get tickets based on a raffle if you're in Los Angeles. In New York City, it's a free for all. That doesn't mean I'll be slow in getting them. I know where I'm going to be tomorrow at 10 a.m. when the NYC tickets go online.

Apparently in years past, according to the publicity video, past years offerings include "Spring Awakening." Here are the plays in NYC which I have my eyes on getting tomorrow morning during class. Because when it's free, why the heck not? And I might get a good review or two from them.

"Dramatis Personae" by Gonzalo Rodriquex Risco
"The Crucible" by Arthur Miller
"As Is" by William Hoffman
"Druid Penelope" by Enda Walsh
"Spirit Control" by Beau Willimon
"Orlando" by Sarah Ruhl, based on a novel by Virginia Woolf (I am particularly excited about this one, some showings are already sold out)
"The Zero Mostel Show" by Jim Brochu

Here's hoping I get everything or most of what I want. What shows are you looking at, readers?

ETA: Well, I went online at exactly 10 a.m. and found out that each person can only reserve for one show. So I got two tickets to "Druid Penelope," not my first choice but it was the winner of the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This should be interesting. There might be more tickets left, go see a free show everyone!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Theater Feature and Review: "No Child..."

There is a moment in No Child…, the first play of Syracuse Stage’s 38th season, when main character Nilaja sits alone in a chair, lit by a single spotlight. She ponders the deficiencies of the American education system, which has led to apathetic, unqualified teachers and uninspired, underachieving and even cruel students.

“But I chose to teach in my city, the city that raised me, and I'm tired,” she says, visibly drained and frustrated. And that is the central message of No Child..., laid out clearly.

The play, written by Nilaja Sun, focuses on a teaching artist who has to find a way to intellectually engage a group of 10th graders at the fictional Malcolm X High School. She does so by making them analyze, rehearse and perform a play by Timberlake Wertenbaker, Our Country’s Good.

And because she is giving this assignment to a group of teenagers, naturally, there would be a Justin Timberlake joke. It’s the humorous moments like this that gives the play its authenticity.


And here is the profile on the actress, Reenah L. Golden.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Recorders vs. Notepads

I just had a 25 minute interview with an actor for Back Stage. It's my first feature story for the publication so naturally, I want to appear professional, personable, poised and polite (my 4personal p's for a successful interview) for every interview.

But, today, this interview was different. Today, I was interviewing with my new Olympus Telephone Pickup which would allow me to record conversations and not have to turn on my speakerphone and bother everyone around me. I was excited, I would no longer have to stoop and try to listen to the speakerphone while trying to refer to my notepad of questions.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The 'Glee' Premiere or 'Ode to Mike Chang's Abs'

Previously, before the season started, I wrote a post about why 'Glee' frustrates me for, mostly because I needed a topic for my first pop culture criticism column (wow, alliteration) and second, it was something I always expressed to the people around me but somehow, it never came out as succinct or articulate as it does in writing.

Then, upon the first viewing of the 'Glee' season premiere, 'Audition,' I was once again underwhelmed, disappointed by the regression of the characters.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I Write About Joaquin Phoenix

I write about Joaquin Phoenix. Why?

Who knows. Divine inspiration or exhaustion-fueled ramblings? You decide readers.

Though I will say one thing, I think I may be getting better at this whole pop-culture criticism thing. There's something kind of freeing about taking all of those loud opinions you have pent up - and everybody has them - and putting it to paper/word document.

Unfortunately, this was one high-profile film that I did not get a chance to see at TIFF.

Save the Date: Oct 30, 2010

On Thursday night, Jon Stewart announced his "Rally to Restore Sanity," a once-in-a-lifetime conflagration of people who, prior to this, have never marched with the Tea Partiers or Glenn Beck or really, marched at all because, according to Stewart, "you have shit to do."

"You may be asking yourself, right now, sitting at home, but am I the right type of person to go to this rally," said Stewart. "The fact that you would even stop to ask yourself that question, as opposed to just, let's say, jumping up, grabbing the nearest stack of burnable holy books, strapping on a diaper and just pointing your car toward D.C. — that means I think you might just be right for it."

And since I am a reporter and not an officially-sanctioned critic (yet), it would probably be conflict of interest for me to advocate this. Let me just say that more than 89,000 people are attending on Facebook.

So watch (and laugh) at your own discretion.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Film That Haunted Me

Here be spoilers!

The Toronto International Film Festival attracts a number of different folks. There are the casual movie-goers who purchased maybe one or two tickets to films they really want to see and spend the rest of the time sight-seeing. Who can blame them? Toronto is a beautiful city. These people are the normal ones.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The (TIFF) Film Review

ETA: 09/18 - Super review added
ETA: 09/16 - Everything Must Go and The Town review added

What happens when you put a journalist, a film and a blank notepad into a room together? Well, besides a nonsensical scribbling known as film notes (and the journalist in question learning the art of writing in the dark), you have the makings of a film review, once the hieroglyphic-inspired penmanship is painstakingly deciphered.

I don't normally write film reviews, mostly because my knowledge of film is limited to the yearly Oscar selections, animated films, and by principal, I avoid horror films like the plague. I still have not seen The Godfather or Citizen Kane and I am hard-pressed to identify any film director by name. My forte is in musical-theater, film is just a casual hobby of mine.

But strangely enough, I am obsessed with reading film reviews, perhaps because I always find that a good discourse from a number of reviews always makes the film more interesting, even if the film was a slice of mud. A good amount of my favorite journalists are film critics: Roger Ebert, Manohla Dargis, A.O. Scott, Capone from AintItCool.

Yet the wonderful thing about being forced to take notes and write a film review is that it puts your brain on alert. Instead of just sitting back and turning off your brain, as you are wont to do and is easier, you actively analyze the film as you watch it, taking it apart and storing what you like and what you didn't like.

After a while, if you've been analyzing for a while, you find that your opinions on the film will be more articulate the more you think and write about it. That way, if anyone asks you what you thought of it, you have a cogent answer to give rather than, "It's okay."

Though it is always important to go with your gut instincts when you're writing a film review. If the film perturbed you, say so. If it moved you, hopefully, describe how you felt. It's all interpretation and as writers, it's our job to put words to feelings. It's not that bad of a task, I enjoy it!

So here are the movies that I saw at TIFF and the ones with links are the reviews. View, enjoy, and watch with discretion.

Never Let Me Go (Carey Mulligan, Kiera Knightley, Andrew Garfield)
127 Hours (James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Clemence Poesy)
Everything Must Go (Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall)
The Town (Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall)
Super (Raynn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler)
Passion Play (Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, Bill Murray)
How to Start Your Own County (documentary)
Little Sister (Brenda Song, Xiao Min)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekly Round-up

Instead of writing a blog post for every piece of writing that I do, which seems a tad excessive, I think I'm going to just place a link for everything that I've written during the week in a blog post. And it's also for my parents (hi Ba, Ma!) who will probably check this website from time to time, now that I told them that it exists. Whoops!

"Stage Plight" - "Syracuse New-Times"
  • This one took about a month and a half to write. It was also a lesson, for me, in patience and realizing that just because you need it, sources still will not reply to your e-mails promptly
"Why 'Glee' Frustrates Me" -
  • My first post and I get $.01 cent for every hit. It's a ways away from actually getting paid to write but it's a start. And I've been meaning to write this type of article for a while, now I can.
  • I've been looking forward to this album for ages. And it almost satisfied.

Still Reeling

I was standing next to Bill Murray.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

To Be or Not To Be Vietnamese

In the Goldring arts journalism program, there are 15 students including me. Of those 15, two are men, 13 are women. The ethnic breakdown is as followed:

African-American: 1
Indian: 1
Asian: 2
Caucasion: 11

The other Asian in the program is Xueying, who is from China. She is tall, with creamy white skin, and a sweet (and initially shy) demeanor. The perfect example of the ideal Asian girl (except for the height). This is also her first time in the United States.

According to her, said Avantika, my Indian housemate and fellow Goldringer, I am the most "American" out of all of the people in the program.

When I heard this, I was laughing. My best friend, Ali, is part Irish and to her, I'm her little Asian friend. Maybe it's the fact that I make Vietnamese food for supper, or I'm prone to the occasional "troi oi."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Bo Kho (Beef Stew) Post

In my family, dinners were a tradition. It didn't matter what you were doing when dinnertime rolled around: doing homework, chores, going out with friends. When Mom called, you picked yourself and you get to the dining room. It was time for dinner. Growing up, I did not crave Vietnamese food. Rice, pho, chicken roasted in fish sauce and ginger, unexciting. It was the necessary chore towards my reward of McDonald Happy Meals at the end of the week.

Of course, as I got older, my palette developed, though even in my teenage years, I still preferred hamburgers. Then I got to college and somehow, the foodie emerged, shedding the old, fat-loving coat behind. The proverbial butterfly that was started enjoying fine foods and insects instead of just plain leaves (I quite like this analogy, it makes me feel pretty). There, living in the dorms at UCLA, surrounded by burgers, sandwiches and pizza, I ran in the opposite direction.

I wanted bun rieu (vermicelli in a shrimp soup), banh canh tom cua (udon in a crab-meat soup), com (rice). In short, I wanted everything I didn't want the first 18 years of my life, something that was fresh and healthy, not oily and fattening.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Theater Review: "Promises, Promises," or How I Met Kristin Chenoweth

When I told my older sister, Thao, that I was coming to Syracuse, NY for graduate school, naturally her first question was, "When are you coming to visit?" Thao lives in New York City, midtown, with her husband, and her being there gives me a reason to come to the city. Then again, why should you need a reason to go to New York, it's New York!

I've been to New York twice at this point, both times when Thao was there, and I've naturally done all of the touristy things (Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, corny photo ops). This time, my goal was to see a Broadway musical (though that mutated into Broadway + Fringe).
But not just any musical: the "Promises, Promises" revival, starring my favorite Broadway actress Kristin Chenoweth (who I had previously written an obituary for in the news writing class).

And if I am honest, I saw the musical just so I can watch her perform, having previously only seen her through a television and computer screen. I had the fantasies of finally meeting her, maybe it would go something like, "Hi Kristin, I'm Diep and I'm a journalist, I interviewed Joshua Bell who knows you and he said that you are just a darling person. Oh, and look at that! We're the same height! People make fun of me too. Did I tell you that I'm also a soprano?" She would laugh, I would laugh, and our natural chemistry would just take over from there.

But first, I had to see the show...

Friday, September 3, 2010

The New York State Thruway Post

I don't drive much these days and that makes me very cranky, for many reasons.

1) I have to beg or bribe people to take me places, like the grocery store, 2) taking the bus is a frustrating and ensures that I am always really early somewhere or really late, and 3) no more random solo road-trips (not that I ever did random solo road-trips but you always want the option).

But there is one reason that I am glad that I do not drive: the New York State Thruway.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In Memoriam

"I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more."
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H.

The Fringe Festival Post, Part Two

So it took me a better portion of the morning and an additional half an hour to get used to the new format of the NewsHouse blog, but I finally posted up the second part of my FringeNYC experience.

After two months, I finally got to review something again. And it feels good, though it always makes me sad writing bad reviews (even it's more fun). But the fun is undercut by the fact that an hour and a half was spent seeing something that was painful, and then I just get angry.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Fringe Festival Post, Part One

Over the past two weeks, while I was on vacation (and working on another piece for the "New Times," the Syracuse newspaper), I also made my first contribution to the NewsHouse website.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Country House Post

Allison is a country girl and I am a city girl. She loves rolling hills of green trees, I find it mysterious and kind of fear it. She is from upstate New York. I am from California. She walks absurdly fast. I walk rather slowly (not surprising because I have very short legs).

I met Allison during my first two weeks in Europe. We were both Americans, far from home (me farther than her of course) and somehow went on the same tour of Coventry together. Then we went to London together. Then Paris. Then Italy. Then the Germanic nations. And etc, etc, etc.

So when I first moved to Syracuse, the first person I told was Allison. The next thing I knew, we were planning a trip together, to her family's cottage on the Finger Lakes.