One of the fun parts of having kids is being able to share your interests with them, things like Star Wars and superheroes. I have been into K-pop for the better part of a decade, so naturally I am passing that on to my kid, too. Here are some songs that I sing to him (even though I don’t speak Korean haha).
This song came out while I was pregnant, so my kid heard it a lot starting even in utero. Though it’s a love song, the concept of a connection through DNA always seemed really fitting to me when talking about the relationship of a mother and a child. Some of the lines translate to things like “We’ll be together forever, DNA” and “The DNA in my blood is telling me/That it’s you who I’ve been looking for.” Since BTS is one of my favorite groups, I of course sing lots of other songs of theirs, but this one reminds me most of him.
by NCT 127
This one is pretty simple: my kid loves fire trucks. For a long time, he called them “wee ooh wee oohs” according to the sound their siren makes. The chorus in this song simply goes something like “Whoop whoop whoop whoop fire truck.” I really have no idea what the song is actually about, but my kid thinks this phrase is pretty hilarious.
This is the most recent release on my list; it came out last November, around the time my kid turned two. One day when I was trying to entertain him, I sang the chorus and did some of the choreography and got the sometimes-desirable/sometimes-dreaded “More!” in response. Now he asks me to sing the “Ba ba” song, and can even sing it a bit himself. The chorus goes:
Bababa bababa bababa
It looks like a lion
I’m a queen like a lion
Which is all just phonetic sounds and English words, including picture book staples “queen” and “lion,” so very easy for a toddler to pick up.
by BIGBANG and 2NE1
I sang a bit of this one to my kid one day, the part that goes “Lolli lolli lollipop,” and he thought it was funny, so I showed him the music video on YouTube and for some reason he absolutely loved it. He’s never been interested in any K-pop video before, but this one is…some kind of special.
It was 2NE1’s first video back in 2009, so they are very young and the fashion is…interesting. I love 2NE1, they are my favorite K-pop group of all time, but this video is not good. The best I can say about it is that it made me truly appreciate TOP’s charisma and visuals. But I guess I can’t be too harsh on it, because it was actually just a commercial for a cell phone. And it is colorful, repetitive, and dancy, plus it’s about candy, so I guess it would appeal to toddlers. We like to put this on and dance around the living room sometimes when we are getting a bit stir crazy.
by Lee Hi
Ah, this one is a bit more personal. I had just discovered Lee Hi around the time I was pregnant, and after my son was born I spent many, many hours in the dark of night singing to try to calm him. After quickly running out of lullabies, I moved onto Rufus Wainwright, The Decemberists, and K-pop songs, and I happened to know a lot of the lyrics to this one from listening to it so much. Again, it’s a love song, but it starts with the lyrics
넌 나의 STAR
넌 나의 SUN
넌 나의 MOON
Which translates to:
You’re my star
You’re my sun
You’re my moon
So I thought it was something sweet to sing to him. I sang it to him so much that it became part of our nightly bedtime ritual: read books, put on sleep sack, sing My Star, turn out light, get in bed and sleep. (When my husband has to put him to bed, he just hums it haha.) Nowadays, he cries when I sing it because he doesn’t want to go to bed! Hopefully it’s just a phase and I haven’t scarred him for life with this song.
With a new version of Emma hitting theaters, I thought it would be fun to talk about my favorite film and TV adaptations of Jane Austen’s works.
Northanger Abbey (2007)
Northanger Abbey is probably the least-known of Austen’s six main works, so it was such a pleasant surprise to see this competent movie adaptation; it was written by Andrew Davies (more below) and originally aired on PBS Masterpiece in the US. I particularly liked how they portrayed Catherine’s crazy Gothic fantasies. Henry Tilney is my favorite Austen hero, and I felt this production did him justice, with JJ Feild portraying him as properly genial, level-headed, and quietly charming. The cast also includes nice turns by Felicity Jones and Carey Mulligan.
Favorite scene: Catherine is investigating her room at the Abbey by candlelight during a stormy night and finds a mysterious document…which is revealed to be a laundry list in the morning light.
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Sense and Sensibility is one of Austen’s more popular works, and I have no doubt that it is due in part to this movie. It was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, and won for best adapted screenplay (which was written by its star, Emma Thompson); it helped make director Ang Lee into a household name here in the US. There’s just so much to love about it: the production quality, the acting, the humor, how it lets not only the love stories but also the Dashwood sisters’ relationship shine through.
Favorite scene: After her mother and two younger sisters have all retreated to their rooms in tears for various reasons, Eleanor sits down quietly on the stairs with a cup of tea. (Also, every scene with Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer.)
I also greatly enjoyed the 2008 BBC miniseries Sense & Sensibility written by Andrew Davies; I think it is one of the best of their newer round of adaptations.
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Ever since I saw this movie in theaters I have been in awe of how well it condenses Pride and Prejudice into approximately two hours. (This also happens to be my husband’s favorite Austen adaptation, and he has been known to watch it even without me!) The characterization is marvelous, and there is not a weak spot in the entire cast. Lizzy’s parents come across as quirky but likeable, and Matthew Macfadyen’s introverted Darcy is just so good I have no words. I love how the costumes and scenery make the world seemed “lived in.” The score is also highly memorable, meriting an Oscar nomination (it garned four in total).
As an adaptation of the novel, my only complaint is the ending: while it is lovely and romantic, it is a bit too Romantic for Austen. I cannot see her characters ever wandering about the moors en deshabille.
Favorite scene: When Lizzy and Jane leave Bingley’s home of Netherfield after Jane’s illness, Darcy hands Lizzy into the carriage then turns his back and walks away, flexing his hand slightly.
Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel, partly because Anne Elliot is the heroine whom I am most like (let’s say…retiring). It was the last novel Austen wrote, and consequently seems a bit more mature in tone, dealing with second chances for Anne, the oldest Austen heroine. The movie adaptation perfectly captures this thoughtfulness while still delivering a romance that will have you gripping chair backs as much as Anne does. The use of the settings of Lyme and Bath is lovely, too.
Favorite scene: At tea with the Musgroves, her sister’s in-laws, Anne sits thoughtfully and silently as each member of the family takes a turn confiding their various interpersonal squabbles to her.
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
The year was 2003; I was doing a group project for my 11th grade British Lit class, based on Pride and Prejudice, which we read for class. One of the girls was quite artistic, so we made a giant movie poster-style banner with Lizzy and Darcy in front of Pemberley. And while we drew and painted in my parents’ basement, we decided to get inspiration by watching all six VHS tapes of the BBC miniseries, which I procured from the library.
I now own two or three different copies of it and have watched it probably a hundred times. You just can’t improve on perfection.
Written once again by the esteemed Andrew Davies, this adaptation follows so closely to the book, I really think it takes the majority of its dialogue straight from there. It takes six episodes, 5.5 hours in total, to develop the plot and characters perfectly, treating even side characters with warmth and humor to make up a rich tapestry that perfectly encapsulates Austen’s view of life in country society at the time. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth are an iconic Lizzy and Darcy.
Favorite scene: Anything featuring Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Honorable mention: Mansfield Park (1999)
Okay, I don’t think many people would claim that this movie is an excellent, or even good, adaptation of Austen’s novel (which happens to be my least favorite of hers anyways). It is targeted to modern sensibilities, sexing up the story and making the heroine Fanny a bit too spunky when she’s really just quiet and judgy. But I will say that this movie made me engage with and appreciate the story more, which is really one of the goals of any adaptations.
Favorite scene: The ending, where the narrator (kind of a mix of Fanny and Jane Austen) recounts how all the characters end up, saying “It could have turned out differently, I suppose…” [All the characters pause and look thoughtful] “…but it didn’t.” [Characters go about their business being ridiculous]
You may notice I haven’t included any version of Emma on this list; while it is not one of my favorite Austen stories, I have seen three versions of it (Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Beckinsdale, Romola Garai) and enjoyed all of them. I am looking forward to seeing the new version once it comes to DVD.
And just like that, another year of great music has come and gone. I have no idea how many of you guys care about these posts but I love going back over all the K-pop music videos that came out every year to pick my favorites.
1. “ICY” by Itzy
2019 has been a great year for rookie groups, and Itzy is at the top of the list. This is actually their second big hit of the year; they may be rookies but they have become known for their catchy, self-confident songs, energetic choreography, and great live performances.
And as cool as this video is, it doesn’t even have the best bit of the song’s choreography (frankly, my favorite bit of choreo I’ve seen anywhere, all year). Feast your eyes on the “neck snap:”
2. “Breakthrough” by TWICE
TWICE had a landmark year, morphing from their original, cute image to a more mature concept. (It reminds me of when Girls’ Generation released “Run Devil Run.”) This is one of their Japanese releases, probably lesser-known, but the song is catchy, the video has great atmosphere, and TWICE is always good in Japanese (they have three Japanese members).
3. “+I Quit 180327+” by CL
The leader of the former group 2NE1 is finally back with solo songs, releasing an EP herself after leaving her company. The numbers in the titles are the dates the songs were written, showing that she’s been doing work all along, her company just wasn’t releasing them or promoting her. “I Quit” is one of the better songs on the album (though the rap section is sub-par), and the video takes it to another level with colorful sign language that almost morphs into interpretive dance. CL does not appear in the video at all, which is an interesting choice considering her natural charisma, but the video is art anyways.
4. “Lovedrunk” by Epik High ft. Crush
You wanted a wuxia movie to go with your K-pop? Okay, then! This beautiful cinematic MV features a fraught relationship between two martial artists, one played by K-pop idol IU. The black and white cinematography goes perfectly with the haunting song from one of my favorite hip hop groups.
5. “Kill this Love” by Blackpink
Blackpink is back in your area with another killer hit. There’s so much to love in this one; it just blows you away from the first trumpet notes. The production value is incredible, and I love Rosé and Jisoo’s acting, as well as Lisa and Jennie’s interaction in the rap part.
I also had a lot of fun watching dance practice videos this year! I love seeing the full choreography in a more informal setting. Here’s two that I thought were particularly good.
Plus, if you enjoyed the League of Legions promotional video “POP/STARS” by K/DA last year, I think you will also enjoy this gem featuring Soyeon of (G)I-dle.
We had lots of videos from some heavy hitters this year, plus one surprise League of Legends crossover.
1. “POP/STARS” by K/DA
This one is a little complicated, but just watch the video and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
K/DA is a virtual band whose members are the League of Legends game characters Ahri, Evelynn, Akali, and Kai’Sa. But the vocals are provided by real singers, including two K-pop idols of the group (G)I-dle, Soyeon (rapper/Akali) and Miyeon (vocalist/Ahri). Basically, Riot Games wanted to promote some new skins for LoL characters and ended up creating the most awesome music video of the year.
Soyeon is one of the fastest rising stars in K-pop right now; she’s a great rapper, has amazing stage presence, and is a wonderful leader for her rookie group (G)I-dle, which had two hits this year.
I’ve been thrilled to see Hyoyeon, the main dancer of Girls Generation, putting out more solo stuff. This video just makes me want to dance around the house every time I watch it. Also, I appreciate the diversity and body-positive visuals.
3. “Idol” by BTS
You knew BTS had to be on this list somewhere. I love this video for its spunk and energy, its Korean cultural influences, and its drawings of leader RM with kitty ears. This video was so good it got a Bad Lip Reading treatment.
4. “Egotistic” by Mamamoo
K-pop follows US music trends, so it’s no surprise that many singles this year featured Latin music influences; Mamamoo is one group that did it very well and will have you yelling “bicho malo” right along with them. They are such a wonderful mix of talent and confidence, and their live performances are some of the best in K-pop.
5. “Ddu-du Ddu-du” by BLACKPINK
Another killer hit by one of my favorite girl groups, BLACKPINK. I don’t know what else to say about this except that it has all the swag you’d expect, including a glittery tank, and that Lisa is about the only person alive who could make those green gloves look cool. Rapper Jennie also released a solo with a great MV this year.
I’ve been watching more live performances from music shows and awards shows this year, so here are a few that I thought were really special.
“Woman” by BoA on KBS Music Bank. The legendary BoA makes her entrance by walking upside-down, then flipping over and performing the whole song live with the energy of idols half her age.
“Latata” by (G)I-dle on SBS Inkigayo. Can you believe these girls are rookies?? I can’t! I think I watched every single stage promotion of this, their debut song.
“Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” by Key on You Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook. SHINee’s triple threat Key had a solo debut this year, and while promoting his song he also performed this lovely Coldplay cover.
Reading the wonderful and wild Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore a few months ago got me thinking about alternate dimensions–specifically, about their use in stories. The concept appears across a range of speculative fiction, including both sci-fi and fantasy stories, and across a variety of media. It can be an interesting way to explore the age-old question “What if?” as well as the idea that even the smallest events or decisions can change the course of lives.
So here’s my list of some favorite parallel universes in fiction. I wanted to tend more towards the idea of multiverses, so I haven’t included any stories where there are only two dimensions, such as Star Trek’s mirror universe, the world of Fauxlivia and Walternate in Fringe, and the Light/Dark worlds of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
The Flash (CW)
After scientist Barry Allen was gifted with super speed during an accident with Central City’s particle accelerator, he became the superhero known as the Flash. Barry can do some pretty crazy stuff with his speed powers, including traveling through time and opening portals into other dimensions. The breaches between dimensions weren’t originally intentional, more of a side effect of Barry trying to fix something else he’d done unintentionally. (This kind of stuff happens to Barry a lot.)
The Flash probably comes the closest on my list to a true multiverse idea. Barry Allen’s world is Earth One, the centerpoint or juncture of the multiverse. There are theoretically an infinite number of worlds comprising every possible existence (though about 50 are known in the show), each vibrating at a different frequency so they don’t normally interact.
Accordingly, some worlds have “doppelgangers” of our main characters; the Barry Allen of Earth Two, for example, is also a scientist but is not a meta-human and has no powers. There are also worlds where there is no Barry Allen.
This TV show was originally a spin-off of Arrow, and later crossed over with Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow as well. Together, the Arrowverse has been able to do some really fun stuff with dimensional travel, including an obligatory visit to a dimension where the Nazis won WWII.
A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
I wrote in praise of this series a little while back, and one of the things I liked about it is the world building. The main character, Kell, is a magician who can travel between worlds: there are four total, and each has a version of London (Black, White, Red, and Grey). In fact, each has a specific tavern in a specific spot in the city, which serves as a kind centerpoint, but that’s about where the similarity between the worlds ends. Our world is ostensibly that of “Grey” London, the home of Lila Bard, which is ruled by the Prince Regent (later George IV) and has no magic. Black London, however, was basically destroyed by magic, and White London still feels the effects of this, struggling to hold onto what power they can, which manifests in major societal and political upheavals.
Red London, Kell’s London, does still have magic, and Kell is their ambassador to White and Grey, being one of the ancient line of Antari, who can do blood magic to cross worlds. Antari are few and far between, and are distinguished by a single black-filled eye (the color black is closely associated with magic in general in this series). They draw magic seals with their blood, speak a phrase in the language of magic, and use a token from the other world to cross over (leaving us to wonder how the first Antari got their tokens, but that’s really not important to the story). They can also travel between two points in the same world, but when crossing worlds always travel to the same geographic point they left in the last world.
These four worlds are parallel in time, but not civilizations or events. Because so few people are able to travel between worlds, and transporting objects is forbidden, even the cultural exchange is extremely limited. There are no doppelgangers here, and while a world may die like Black London, there is no evidence that new ones are ever created.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
This series, sometimes thought of as the “anti-Narnia,” begins with hints of alternate dimensions in The Golden Compass, but it’s not until the second book, The Subtle Knife, that the idea begins to really be explored. This cosmos is also theoretically a multiverse, which concept the characters refer to as the Barnard-Stokes Theorem. Just as in ADSoM, the two main characters, Lyra and Will, come from two different universes.
There are several ways of crossing between universes, the most prominent being the titular Subtle Knife. Will becomes the owner of this double-edged blade, one side of which can cut a window between worlds. However, this power is not without price: the children eventually discover that each piece of inter-dimensional fabric that is cut off becomes a Spectre that menaces adults (kids are safe).
Several worlds are visited in the course of the story. Will’s world appears to be our world, and Lyra’s is relatively similar (they both even have an Oxford University). Some are completely different, such as the world of the mulefa, animals that have evolved to use wheels, or the land of the dead. The story does not present any doppelgangers, either because they don’t exist or because the chances of actually meeting one in the multiverse would be slim.
The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
Nine Princes in Amber has one of my favorite openings of any novel ever: our protagonist wakes in a medical facility (presumably in our world) with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there, only the vague sense that he was injured and is now being kept incapacitated. He eventually remembers that he is Corwin, Prince of Amber, the one true world; all other worlds are simply shadows of Amber.
The royal family of Amber can manipulate the Shadows, essentially creating whole worlds where they can live like kings, or disappear into obscurity. They speak of “adding” and “subtracting” things as they travel through various realities on the way to Amber. With such mathematical language, it make sense that Amber turns out to be only one anchoring pole of reality, that of order; the world of Chaos is its opposite pole, with the Shadows existing between them. The royals also have a special set of cards, trumps with their own portraits, that allow them to communicate across worlds.
The parallel universes are the backdrop for a grand political struggle among the royal family, taking place over generations. Corwin in particular has spent a lot of time in the Shadows, but eventually makes his way back to Amber to fight for the crown. One interesting detail is that different universes can apparently have different laws of physics; some have different color skies, for example. Also, gunpowder does not ignite in Amber, which results in a lot of sword fighting in the books.
My favorite authors of Japanese manga are a group of 4 women collectively known as CLAMP. Over their prolific career they have produced dozens of stories, most of which crossover to form a loose universe. Nowhere is that so evident than in the two series XXXholic and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle (which directly crossover, but can be read separately). In the CLAMPverse, crossing between dimensions requires such great magical power that only few can do such a thing; one of these is Yuuko the Dimensional Witch, who runs a magical store where wishes can be granted for a price. A group of travelers comes to her asking to be given the power to journey between dimensions, not just once but many times (they all have their own reasons for this quest), and she gives them white Mokona.
What is Mokona exactly? “Mokona is Mokona!” the creature helpfully cries. Mokona (a version of character originally created for Magic Knight Rayearth) has the power to take the group between dimensions by kind of sucking them into a giant whirlwind in its mouth. It’s catchphrase when traveling is “Mokona Modoki mo doki doki!” which loosely means “Mokona is getting excited, too!”
The number of dimensions in the CLAMPverse is unknown, but it seems to be many, if not infinite. We see several dozen of the throughout the course of the story. We also meet versions of many, many characters found in CLAMP’s other works, most importantly Cardcaptor Sakura (my all-time favorite manga). Each version of the character we meet is different, living in under different circumstances, but they each have the same soul and therefore have many things in common, often having similar personalities, characteristics, preferences, and mannerisms. For example, Tomoyo (first seen as a schoolgirl in CCS), is a princess in one world and the president of a toy company in another, but is always polite and caring.
Honorable Mention: Sliders
I would include this 1990s TV show on my list, except that I haven’t seen enough of it to really count myself a fan. It follows the adventures of a group of travelers “sliding” between universes to try to get to back to their home dimension. The show also has a multiverse concept; because some universes are more technologically advanced than others, it also lets the show occasionally explore time travel-type scenarios as well.