Category Archives: Hobby

A Hidden Gem of American Sitcoms

By Yingyi Lin

I am a big fan of sitcoms. I have watched many popular American sitcoms that have gained mass international popularity: Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Modern Family, just to name a few. Many times, these shows take place in American metropolitan cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, places which are interesting to international students like me. The hidden gem ranking the top of my favorite sitcom list, however, has to be Veep.

The HBO show Veep takes place in the capital city of America, Washington D.C. For many reasons, Veep is not as popular as other American shows in China, or in other countries where many international students come from. This mismatch of the popularity of the show with its quality is what makes me call it a hidden gem of American sitcoms. Veep has won many accolades for its quality: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the actress of America’s first woman president Selina Meyer featured in Veep, has won six Primetime Emmy Awards in a row. Her award acceptance speech was among the best, and she was even honored the 2018 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor for it.

Photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash

Before watching Veep, I did not realize that I indeed care so much about politics. As someone interested in learning about human nature, my favorite quote from Selina Meyer is “Politics is about people”. To me, caring about politics does not mean I care which party people stand for; instead, I am intrigued by why and how people make their choices. The interaction between Veep’s politicians, their followers, and their people is a vivid reality of humanity—one that is not only determined by one’s own personal desires but also deeply shaped by the context of one’s life. Veep is more than a political satire of the country’s many presidencies. To me, Veep is about American politics and the everyday life of people living in America. 

The most interesting thing about Veep is that Meyer, like all other politicians in the show, never discloses which party she stands for. Having witnessed the extreme political divide of America myself, the ambiguous political standpoint among Veepers to me exposes the common (and unfortunate) goal of both parties to win more voters. Politicians strive for what they want, but it is unclear whether these desires align with the desires of the people.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

As someone who studies family dynamics as part of my major, TV shows centering around family dynamics are my favorite, such as Downton Abbey, The Middle (the most underrated American family sitcom), and Modern Family. The family dynamics in Veep, however, are very dysfunctional. The characters of Veep relentlessly sacrifice their families for personal political achievement.

I have learned a lot from Veep, and a lot of what I have learned are things that I would not have consciously sought out. For instance, what happens if there is a tie in a presidential election? Veep hypothetically features this scenario, although a tie did happen (in the 1800 presidential election). Through Veep, I also came to know more about America’s lobbying culture and the polling industry—with the latter sharing similarities to my own research.  Veep also has a rich glossary of newly created words, most of which are used by characters in the show to insult other characters. Many of the jokes compound words to create these insults. ‘Voldemeyer’ is such an example, a nickname of Meyer by the media. It is interesting for me to see these nicknames are formed by multiple words in English, and I have learned many different cultural references from this.

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Give Tchaikovsky a Try

By Nikhita Datar

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

I’ve been surrounded by music for as long as I can remember. Whether it was in dance classes, family gatherings, or elementary school choral concerts, something about the infinite number of possibilities of different instruments and sounds that create music has always captivated me. By combining different fundamental frequencies and pitches from the music scale, you can create wildly different pieces of music, and I think that is amazing. 

Photo by Stefany Andrade on Unsplash

I began playing the violin at a really young age. I initially resented the idea of consistently practicing and standing still with good posture. Above all else, I was frustrated that I was unable to sound like Itzhak Perlman (a famous violinist) no matter how hard I tried. As I got older, I began playing in different orchestras and chamber groups, and the opportunity for me to engage with music in different formats and genres really helped me develop my love and passion for it. I was able to play some of the most iconic pieces of classical music from composers that I admire the most, and I was also able to build some of the most meaningful relationships of my life. During the school year, I would play in my school’s orchestra, play in chamber groups, take private lessons, and prepare for all kinds of concerts year-round. In the summers, I would attend different music programs such as Blue Lake Fine Arts or Interlochen Music Academy. What was originally an overwhelming task became a great passion of mine.

I think that I’ve always known since I picked up the violin for the first time that I wasn’t fully going to pursue a career in music. As much as I love classical music and the art of playing the violin, I knew that the pathway of being a violinist wasn’t the right fit for me. Even so, the notion of throwing away years of private lesson tuition and hard work wasn’t appealing to me. I knew I wanted to keep playing music for the rest of my life, even if this special hobby wasn’t necessarily monetarily profitable. I emphasize the notion of monetary benefits because playing an instrument does indeed have a number of other benefits. It can increase your cognitive abilities and decrease loss of memory. As you play music, there are a million things happening in your brain at once. You’re simultaneously checking your pitch and making sure to land on the right notes in the moment while also reading the key signature and time signature to play in the right key. You always have to read a few notes ahead to prepare yourself for upcoming wonky rhythms and accidentals (a note of a pitch that is not a member of the scale or mode dictated by the key signature, indicated by notation such as the sharp (♯), flat (♭), and natural (♮) symbols). 

Photo by Michel Catalisano on Unsplash

I don’t know if I would necessarily say that playing an instrument has made me smarter, but it certainly has improved my ability to think critically, and think fast. It’s also given me access to a greater community of people who share similar interests and have taught me a lot about the world we live in. Simply listening to classical music, rather than playing, can have so many benefits for your brain as well. I would highly recommend listening to or learning to play classical music to improve your cognitive function. And who knows, you might start to really like it! 

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Finding Tranquility on the Trails

By Leah King

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

Recently I picked up a new hobby that I would love to share with others in the hopes that it could bring the same joy and peace that I feel from it to you: hiking. During the Covid-19 pandemic, I felt trapped in my home and anxious from spending so much time indoors. I needed an escape from what was going on for my mental health.

Growing up, I loved spending time outdoors. I would go camping and hiking around the Midwest regularly, but for some reason, I lost touch with that side of myself in high school and in my early undergraduate years because of my other athletic commitments. So when all the gyms were closed and I was tired of running around the same block over and over again, I started researching hiking trails around California. This was around my first year of my Master’s Program. In my search, I came across this app called “AllTrails.” This incredible app shows you all the hiking trails in the area, how difficult they are, and how long they are. It also has a navigation system to help you locate the start of the trail and people’s reviews. I used this app to help plan my first hiking trip to Yosemite.  

One of Yosemite’s most popular views

During spring break, a couple of friends and I drove up from LA to Yosemite to hike for a few days. I was immediately hooked. Firstly, Yosemite is so breathtaking with all its mountains, trees, and waterfalls. I used AllTrails to help me plan what hikes we wanted to do in terms of difficulty and popularity. We hiked over 15 miles during the three days we were there, and while I was hiking, I felt a sense of calmness and peace when I was surrounded by nature. When I came back to LA to resume classes, that calmness was gone and I was eagerly anticipating my next adventure in the outdoors.

Fast forward to the second year of my Master’s Program. The pandemic had calmed down a bit and my classes were fully in person. While in class, I overheard a couple of classmates talking about hiking in Santa Monica. I gravitated to the conversation and asked You guys are hiking? Could I possibly join?”. The two girls were so sweet and invited another classmate and me that weekend to hike. During that hike, we shared our love for the outdoors and discussed how many different hiking spots there are in California. We decided to try to hike every weekend and came up with the name “Trailmixers” for our hiking group! And that’s what the Trailmixers did. We hiked almost every weekend, and with some planning, most of those trips were very inexpensive. We’ve hiked Mount Baldy, Cucamonga, San Fan, Santa Barbra, Sedona, Pinnacles National Park, Zion, camped in Big Sur, and backpacked in Catalina Island.

Photo from my Catalina Island trip
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