Grad School: Part 5 – “What Summer Break?”


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At an outlook with friends by Westport, Ontario, Canada on August 4, 2017. From left to right: James, Kelly, Chris, my brother Simon, Lilje and I.

One thing I’ve heard a lot lately is, “This summer went by so fast.” It’s something people tend to say annually, but this time I can honestly agree with them.

For giggles, I wanted to pose this question to my fellow classmates: What did you do this summer?

And secondly, how did you prepare yourself for the fall semester?

In regards to getting ready for school, I got some advice in case you feel caught off guard or lack of motivation.

  • Try making a list of your goals for this semester.
  • Think about your priorities.
  • Think about people and events (i.e. workshops, student orientation, etc.) that can help you achieve your goals.
  • Also, look ahead of time to see if there’s anything fun going on. It’s easy to get caught up with school and work, but don’t let it stop you from having a good time.
  • In the same line… think of things to look forward to.
  • Find a physical activity – whatever it is – that will keep you moving. Exercising is so good for you! I can’t empathize it enough. Believe me, it will actually give you more energy to deal with whatever challenges are ahead.
  • Catch up with your classmates. Think of them as members of the same team as you. No matter how tough a class may get, you can get through it together.



“Wait, where are we? We’re pointing at two different spots!” Just kidding, we’re in Charlevoix, MI; May 2, 2017. I visited my friends Shayla (in picture) and Aaron.

As for my summer, I’ve done a lot travel: One four-hour-long road trip north to Charlevoix, MI, despite the lingering chill back in May. One life-changing conference in Washington, D.C. in early June. And last month, a 10-day long trip to an island in Ontario, Canada with some old friends from high school. In addition to that, I’ve been reading, writing and working. I’ve finally found a nice job and I earned my green belt back in July. Not to mention that I had a kick-ass summer class throughout May and June. It was about gender and sexuality in the media, largely regarding television and online-streams. By kick-ass, I mean that it was a ton of fun and it also kicked my ass. It’s amazing that I managed to ace it with all the reading the professor threw at us. The final was brutal: An in-class essay exam and a paper due a few days later.


One of my favorites so far. Daredevil, Issue 181 by Frank Miller (1982).

I made it even harder on myself by choosing to write a research proposal, which until then, I’ve never done. It turned out to be “a good start” to the actual proposal that I have to turn in soon. Unlike most of my classmates, who are picking “comps” (the in-class essay exam) as their exit option, I’ve decided to do a thesis. One, I love research, and two, I am a terrible test-taker. I’ve started my research already, even though it hasn’t gotten officially approved, but every professor I’ve talked to thinks I’ve picked an interesting topic. I’m looking at the changing portrayal of the male superhero onscreen and their depiction of masculinity by studying the Marvel Netflix shows. My focus characters are Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the Punisher. In the past few days, I’ve read 49 comic books issues and still got a few dozen to go. Before then I rummaged through websites talking about the characters’ origins and checked out what fans are saying on social media. I’m reading a few books about television in general, too, by scholars such as John Fiske and Amanda D. Lotz. It was actually Lotz’s book that we read for class that inspired me; Cable Guys: Television and Masculinities in the 21st Century. It feels right to take in some of her observations and bring the research to the Marvel universe, considering how big superheroes have become in the mainstream media in the past decade. I will talk about the whole thesis process another time, but if you want to follow my exciting journey more closely, feel free to check out my Tumblr blog, Marvel Scholar Palm. I use the site as a source of ideas and inspiration… and let’s be honest, a platform for some bursts of opinions. I am a superhero fan after all.

So what have you done this summer? If it feels like your memories have become jumbled in the haste of buying textbooks and all that, I got a fun tip for you. I sat down and wrote a list of all the events that took place in the past three-four months; things I’ve accomplished, tried and failed, and even the movies I’ve seen in theater. It really gave me an opportunity to appreciate everything I’ve experienced and allows me to write an end to that chapter. Back to the grind, right?



After DC: Detroit Convention & Other


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The title does say “after DC,” which refers to the conference at the beginning of June this year. However, this entry is about more than the aftermath of NCCWSL (National Conference for College Women Student Leaders). I ran across an upcoming event for women and anyone else passionate about women’s issues. Before I get into that, let me share something interesting.

The people running NCCWSL emailed a survey not too long ago wondering how the attendants liked the experience. Two questions they asked were whether they should change the 30-something-old name, and whether they should hold the conference in a different city. The only contingency was that the city had to be near an airport. I gladly suggested Detroit! The city needs more love! As for the name, I thought it was a little humorous since NCCWSL is pronounced “Nick Whistle” and I’ve told how many people seem to think it’s stupid. I brainstormed for a few hours and emailed the organization later with the suggestion: WALC – Women’s American Leadership Conference (pronounced “walk”).

I don’t know how far they are in planning for next year’s conference, but I hope they’ll bring it to Detroit.

Speaking of which, Women’s March are holding a convention at the Cobo Center in Downtown Detroit on October 27th through the 29th. According to the event page on Facebook, the convention will include “workshops, strategy sessions, inspiring forums and intersectional movement building.” Furthermore, it states: Participants will leave inspired and motivated, with new connections, skills and strategies for working towards collective liberation for women of all races, ethnicities, ages, disabilities, sexual identities, gender expressions, immigration statuses, religious faiths, and economic statuses.

Since you’re probably wondering about the cost, here is what they’re asking:

General admission is $295 per person—an amount necessary to help us cover the expense of holding a conference. Youth and student registration is $125 per person. If your employer is paying your registration, please register at the institutional level, $365 per person.

FYI, you can apply for a scholarship fund. The deadline is September 12, 2017.

I encourage anyone interested in the convention to attend. It sounds like it’s going to be an awesome event! I don’t know yet if I’m going myself because with school starting soon, I’m still lining up my ducks. I really want to, though, especially since a friend of mine is attending.

Please check out Women’s March website for more information; the registration is now open. 🙂

NCCWSL ’17 – Workshops and panels


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#ShinyCampus: How Empowered Women Can Empower Women. 

The schedule at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders was wild. Not a second was wasted. In addition to inspirational speeches and mingling (which I’ve talked about in this entry), there were several workshops and panels to attend.

Before my group and I went to DC, one of the women organizing our travel details advised us to read about the workshops ahead of time and pick a priority and second-choice. Some workshops tend to fill up quickly and considering how big University of Maryland is, you want to know where you’re going. The subjects that these workshops focused on were leadership development, professional development, activism, women’s issues, or identity and diversity.

I’m happy to share my notes from the workshops and panels I attended, because I learned so much within such a short period of time. It was pretty intense and exciting talking about topics such as shine theory and time management with other women and actively listening, and then moving on from one event to the next. Hopefully you’ll find a few good tips that will help you in your day-to-day. If you got any questions, please email me! (


#ShinyCampus: How Empowered Women Can Empower Women

Presenters: Erica Wallace, Coordinator for Peer Mentoring and Engagement at University of North Carolina, and Rachel Kline, Residence Director at Syracuse University

Shine Theory – term by Ann Friedman: “When you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison, it makes you look better.”

Examples: Call Your Girlfriend, Women of the Obama Administration, The Final Five, Hidden Figures, etc.

Competition and your circle of friends: “If you find that you are feeling… toxic or competitive toward the women who are supposed to be your closest friends, look at the why and figure out how to fix it.”

Unpack the WHY: The perceived limited resource and why?// Your shine// Their shine// How can you learn from them or use their shine?

Amplification – repeat another woman’s idea (give her credit)

Simone Biles – Aly/silver: Media pitting women against each other

  • “we’re proud of each other”
  • “Her accomplishments don’t diminish mine”

Power in sticking together

  • “Hidden Figures”
    • Recommend a friend


  • Hard-wired to protect their own bodies (passive-aggressive)
  • Social exclusion: remove oneself from other women; make themselves look better (to men)
    • Noam Shpancer (internalized male gaze)
  • Karl Marx – internal self-conscious/perspective
    • The patriarchy/male-dominated society (enemy)
  • Roxane Gay – female friendships – designed to slow us down

Push women to do better and be better

  • Don’t compares their shine to your shine
  • Don’t tear women down
  • Criticism versus hate
    • Nepotism
    • Merge pockets of activism

So Let’s Glow: “Want nothing but the best for your friends because when your friends are happy and successful, it’s probably going to be easier for you to be happy. If you and your friend(s) are in the same field and you can collaborate or help each other, do this without shame. It’s not your fault your friends are awesome. Men invented nepotism and practically live by it. It’s okay for women to do the same.” – Roxane Gay


Dream Big: Moving from Idea to Execution 

Presenter: Andrena Sawyer, Founder/CEO of P.E.R.K. Consulting, LLC


3-4% CEOs are women (biz insider)


  • Work twice as hard
  • Look good
  • Be extra nice
  • Prove yourself
  • Prove intellect
    • Women work more on this!

Your story, your challenges, your idea

Know how an execution (there’s a gap)

  1. Vision casting
  2. Goal setting
  3. Starting off the right way
  • Share your ideas with other people who will help you make it a reality
    • Clearly communicate the idea
    • Communicate often
    • Cascading goals
    • Be open to suggestions
  • Register business (legal)
  • Mentor, accountability, partner
    • Boys’ club – decisions on the golf course or at the bar, not the board room
    • Be vulnerable and transparents

A goal is not an idea

Set the Goal


Stepping stones

Assessment and evaluation

Don’t wait till the end


Reach the Goal!


  • Strategic plan
    • Product or goal
    • Higher ROI
    • Simplify decision making
    • Drive alignment
    • Communicate message
    • Create SMART goals
      • Specific
      • Measurable
      • Attainable
      • Realistic
      • Timely


  • Figure out time
  • Calculate investment
  • Where do I start?
  • What is my mission statement?
    • Why do we exist?

SWOT Analysis (Strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)

  • Where are we now?
  • Long-term strategic objectives
  • Short-term goals
    • Smart
    • Action plan
  • Vision statement

ABCs/Strategic Plan

  • Assessment
  • Baseline
  • Components
  • Down to specifics
  • Evaluate

Meet the needs as a leader:

Internal Environmental Assessment

  • Organize assets and resources
  • Culture
  • Partnerships
  • Supplies

External Environment Assessment

  • Marketplace
  • Competitors
  • Social trends
  • Regulatory environment

Don’t go power mad or idea crazy

Resistant to change? No structure?

“temperature of the place” (vibe)

Informed decisions:

  • Outside factors
  • Know what you’re talking about
  • Trust

Mission statement: expression of purpose and action

Vision statement: statement of organization’s future

  • How, what and why?

Value statement/guiding principles: core values and beliefs

KPI – performance measures

  • Objective, quantifiable methods for measuring success
    • Performance measurement
    • Initiatives
    • Projects
    • Action plans
  • Financing, operations, capacity, customer

Keep your eye on the vision



Time Management, Time Out

Time Management, Time Out

Presenters: Libby Thorson, Coordinator in the Violence Prevention and Healthy Masculinity Programs at West Chester University, and Jackie Aliotta, Assistant Director of Student Leadership and Involvement at West Chester University

Split up your time into three categories: Self, Obligations and Relationships

Intentional time-out (effort) (self-care)

Most people try to accomplish everything at once!

the 80-20 rule (number of things needed to be done):

  • 20% you have to do
  • 3 goals for the day (or just one!)
  • It’s OK if you don’t finish everything

Time management:

People think of…

  • Stress
  • To-do list
  • Structure
  • Planner/tools/chart
  • Organization
  • Procrastinating
  • Never enough
  • 80-20 rule
  • Incentives
  • Realistic
  • Me time
  • Info overload
  • Deadlines
  • Social media
  • Guilt
  • Brainstorming
  • Balance

Who teaches us time management?

  • Parents
  • College (self)
  • Trial and error
  • Mentor
  • Work
  • Friends
  • Internet
  • Books
  • Successful folks

Thoughts on time management:

  • To-do lists can be fun
  • Prioritize – focus
  • You can’t do everything
  • Be prepared

Motto to live by:

Early is on time. One time is late. Late is unacceptable.

Time management includes:

  • Planning
  • Sleep
  • No stress
  • Present in the moment (future planned)
  • Think of your time and your resources
  • Things hard to remember
  • Frustration

Time is the only thing we got to give.

Obligations and self?

  • Prep ahead mentally
  • Find time afterwards
  • Do something for yourself
  • Recognize your accomplishments

Obligations differ according to…

  • Gender?
  • Generation (yes)
  • First time college students (yes)

Ask yourself…

  • Where are your obligations?
  • What do you want to spend more time on?
  • What prohibits you?

Finance: start saving early

  • Take investments into your own hands
  • Roth IRA

How do we use time to be successful?

Invest in yourself


(Panel) Self-Care to Recharge Your Leadership

Presenters: Jackie Pearce Garrett, Founding Partner of HGVenture LLP, and Tricia Homer, Executive Communication Coach

Questions they asked; options were “I agree” and “I disagree”

  • Self-care is important
  • I know my strategies
  • I spend enough time on self-care

Self-care isn’t luxury… it’s something different for everyone

Redefine self-care

  • You don’t have to spend money to do it

When looking out for others, ask a question to get people to open up

  • Dialogical approach
  • “How are you doing? Are you getting enough sleep?” (etc.)

Know yourself:

  • Self-awareness and reflection
    • Physical
    • Emotional
    • Intellectual
    • Social
    • Spiritual


  • Figure out what works for you
  • Nourishment
  • Vibe, energy
  • Resources

Support and sustain:

  • Building resilience, community

Women are trained to put themselves last

Self-care is an act of resistance

Set boundaries for yourself

Say no

Brush it off if people call you “lazy” for taking a break

About self-care…

Generation, culture change

“we worked hard, so can you!”


What can you change in the next three days? What do you want to do?

In the next three weeks?

In the next three months?



(Panel) Diversity and Inclusion: It’s What YOU Make It!

Presented by the United States Air Force: Lieutenant Colonel Angela Cummins, USAFR; Chief Master Sergeant Janna Dorvil, USAF; and Enjoli Ramsey, USAF.

Your own definition of success is continual

Don’t alter yourself

  • Acceptance
  • Conversation with yourself
  • Relationship with yourself
  • Check yourself
    • Thoughts

Don’t get caught up with petty stuff

  • Relationships are vital

Be adventurous!

Don’t burn bridges

  • Network
  • Be civil

I won’t dare telling you how to love. Find your own definition of love. – Dorvil

Be curious about each other

Be open and open-minded

There’s so much to learn from each other

Your job can have an effect on people:

Not every job is going to be on top of the spear. If you’re given the opportunity to sweep the floor, make it the best swept floor you’ve ever done. – Robinson

  • find Dream #2

You have to be comfortable with yourself, and know what your purpose is

People will put adjectives on you based on their bias. – Dorvil

[Note added after the fact: QUOTE from Jessica Jones: “When you burn a bridge, you have to learn how to swim. Or fly!”]


#NCCWSL17 – Mutual Admiration Society


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kristin 1

June 2, 2017: Destinee, Kristin, Hannah and I in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

“Listen with your eyes and your heart.” – Wisdom from a second-grader

“I’m betting on millennials to change the status quo.” – Rosie Rios

“A woman who speaks with conviction should be scary.” – Crystal Valentine

“Giving of your time is investing in yourself.” – Cleopatra Campbell

“The nation needs women’s paid and unpaid labor.” – Melissa Harris-Perry

“He said ‘You got into Harvard only because you’re a girl.’ Damn straight I got into Harvard because I’m a girl. Among the vast number of upper-class, white, straight males, I stood out.” – Danielle Feinberg [Slightly paraphrased.]

“No one is powerless when we come together. You can absolutely do whatever it is that you want to do.” – Amanda Nguyen

“Let’s create a world we want to live in.” – Melissa Gruver

Every summer since 1983, there is a conference for women at University of Maryland in Washington, D.C. that spans over the course of three days. Men are welcome, of course, but it’s mainly a celebration for us ladies, a place for professionals and students to make connections, and where successful folks like Melissa Harris-Perry, Amanda Nguyen, Cleopatra Campbell and Danielle Feinberg talk to us and listen to us. It’s called the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, or NCCWSL, pronounced as “nick whistle.” I think there’s a debate going on about whether it’s a dumb nickname. Funny enough, there’s a similar one for how to pronounce AAUW (American Association of University Women). Some people go “Aw” while my brother loves saying “Aoooohhh!” like a wolf (which I personally prefer).

Silliness aside, attending NCCWSL is nothing like I’ve never experienced. It’s a rare place where crowds will erupt into applause for other women’s achievements.

During a conversation exercise at the welcome session, for instance, when people introduced themselves and talked about what they do and what they’ve done, the audience would interrupt them briefly to clap their hands. If people in the crowd agreed with what the person was saying, they would snap their fingers and you could hear snippets such as “mhmm” and “that’s right” around you. It was truly a safe place for all of us to express ourselves; our concerns, our opinions, our aspirations, whatever was on our minds. Several women cried that morning, including myself, because there was so much love, compassion and positivity in that ballroom. I felt a connection with all the women, even though I hardly knew them. Yet I knew the emotions behind their words: Passion, frustration, loneliness, the special rage that only unfairness and dismissal can cause, that burning WANT to do more and to be more.

If you think I’m exaggerating, get this: The next day, I was at a workshop on self-care when a woman talked about being a single mother and not receiving any support from her family. She teared up and said that this was the first time other people have showed that they care.

One of the questions that we tackled in that exercise was: “Has college built your confidence?” As the mic was passed around, there was a mix of responses. Yes, because she knew that she had earned her place at her school. No, not really… it’s been a uphill journey because she had to prove herself to naysayers. I’m glad that someone in the crowd mentioned “imposter syndrome,” which is when a person doesn’t acknowledge their achievements as theirs and sometimes even gives the credit to other people. Too often women don’t let themselves feel proud. Women in America are generally taught to be humble, to be a background character in their own life when they really are the superhero.

One great moment at the conference for me was listening to Amanda Nguyen speak and later meeting her, even though it was less than a minute (a handshake, a “thank you, Amanda” and a hug). She is the mind and soul behind the Bill of Rights for Sexual Assault Survivors (2016). I decided to record her speech on my phone, which you can watch here. What a wonderful person!!


Another thing that made this trip to DC such an awesome experience was, of course, the friends I made. From the moment our bus left Dearborn, Michigan on Wednesday morning to when we returned Saturday night, I was surrounded by many fun, interesting, smart chicks. The conversations we had, the meals we shared, I will never forget that, and I’m so glad that we’ve stayed in touch since.

This is something I posted publicly on Facebook on the day we were boarding the bus home (June 3, 2017):

I’m going to talk more about #NCCWSL17 later, but I want to say something for now: One big thing I’ve learned from this amazing conference is that I can truly pursue and achieve the goals I’ve set for myself and it does NOT have to be overwhelming. Hell, it can be fun! I just gotta remember to take better care of myself; that way I’ll have the energy and motivation to keep going. Even Wonder Woman needs a break once in a while. I already started this week by taking 30-45 minutes a day practicing karate outside. I finally don’t care about people watching! And I feel so great!

In a future entry, I will talk about the handy information I learned at the workshops and lectures.


Below is a series of photos I posted on Instagram during the trip! Not all, but most of them.


Day 1 at NCCWSL (June 1, 2017).


The courtyard outside the Ellicott cafeteria.


The welcome session.


Me, Kristin, Destinee and Hannah.


Skyy, me, Hannah and Kristin at the Women of Distinction Award Ceremony.


Cleopatra Campbell, retired defense attorney and long-time AAUW member.


Danielle Feinberg, who has worked on Pixar movies such as “Finding Nemo” & “Brave,” spoke to us about doing what we’re interested in and passionate about. Don’t do what everyone else is doing just because you’re scared. Even when you’re the only woman in the room, like Feinberg was, don’t let it stop you.


Rosie Rios, former US Treasurer. In this photo, she is smiling at her mother sitting in the front row.


Amanda Nguyen, civil rights activist and aspiring astronaut.


Crystal Valentine, slam poet.


Melissa Harris-Perry had various informative slides during her speech (June 2, 2017).




I explored the old campus with Elle and Courtney (they’re also from Oakland University).


Night out in DC!


Found the president!


And then we found a bar called Recessions (it used to be a speakeasy).


Melissa Gruver closed the conference with a uplifting message: Let’s create a world we want to live in. Be leaders TODAY. Look at yourself, accept yourself. Breathe. (June 3, 2017).

I Don’t Make Up the Characters


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A cool bookstore at the Commons in Traverse City, Michigan (April, 2017).

There’s no rhyme or reason to how my imagination works, at least as far as I can tell. I am not in control. That’s a sure thing.

The general misconception is that a writer is the god of their own world. Perhaps that’s true for some, but that’s something I’ve never experienced. George R.R. Martin once said, there are two types of writers: The architect and the gardener. The architect has a blueprint for the whole story. The gardener plants a seed and the way the story grows will depend on the weather, the soil and the time and effort one puts into caring for it.

A couple years ago I had an epiphany and stopped writing detailed outlines, because my characters always have other plans. I prepare to an extent since I have too many ideas to remember them all. Once I sit down to write, it’s mayhem. I can try writing down the directions and the stops we might make along the road, but then again, we can run into traffic, car trouble, rain and thunder, et cetera.

When I got a story to tell, it’s like having a movie play inside my head and there’s no pause button. It’s like being possessed. While this movie is playing, my body switches to autopilot and I hardly speak a word to anyone. Some scenes run on replay and sometimes when they replay, little details change, such as a line or a character’s movement. The perspective can linger in a single moment for hours, then it jumps forward five, ten, twenty years and runs through a sequence of events within minutes.

These scenes can be intense: Mentally I’m there with my characters, it doesn’t matter if I’m at work or in my bed, starting to snooze or trying to do homework. If they’re in a cold, abandoned shack, I know that the wood smells like dirt and rot and that the walls creak when a wind runs through. I can feel that the floor is uneven from the way people are standing. I make a note of how many rooms there are, the state of the furniture, what the characters are wearing, who clearly doesn’t want to be there and who came there with a purpose… I even feel the emotions my characters are experiencing. I’ve made myself cry or laugh or brood more than a few times.

I don’t make up the characters. They come to me and introduce themselves. Sometimes they make it difficult.

There is this one character who has been with me for over three years, Francesca Ivers. I must have gone through six to seven drafts without getting anywhere with her. My mother, friends, other writers, professors, they’ve read about her. The reason I haven’t been able to finish anything is because I couldn’t figure out what her story was. It wasn’t until last weekend when she returned out of the blue. The cool thing about her is that she herself hasn’t changed much over the years: She has always been a lover of music and a singer, a daredevil, affable, and way too curious for her own good.

For a week straight, I’ve been taking notes about the people in her life and the major events that are going to take place. (In Detroit to be specific; there aren’t enough Michigan stories out there.) Today I’m actually starting the first chapter, which is really exciting.

Honestly, I am glad I’m a gardener. The architect might finish the story faster, but I get to come along for an unpredictable joyride.

“Baby Driver” Review – Behind the Music


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*Spoilers ahead (including the ending).*

Before the movie begins, the writer and director Edgar Wright himself takes a moment to thank the audience for watching Baby Driver. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a nice touch. You don’t see that much.

Another thing you don’t see much is when there’s next to no talking in the first ten minutes of a movie. Yet it’s intriguing because all the visuals and the music do the storytelling. The number one rule in writing is “show don’t tell” which Wright utilizes beautifully throughout the entire ride. Like I said in a recent post, I love it when writers use different techniques and/or take a new approach to a story that’s been told hundreds of times. For time’s sake, I’m going to focus on the music.

Usually no one gives a damn about the getaway driver, and usually the music is added during post-production. Wright wrote the script according to the list of songs he had on hand (as explained in this short video on Twitter)… kind of like a musical. Honestly it feels like one in the beginning: After the first heist, there’s a continuous shot of Baby going on a coffee run and jamming to “Harlem Shuffle” by Bob & Earl, having a jaunt in each step. The audience is completely immersed in his perspective, the music drowning out the sounds of the world to the point of them being faint background noise. The fact that he bumps into people and almost gets hit by a car doesn’t seem to faze him.

The cool thing is that not only does the music convey the mood and emotions of the scenes: You get a glimpse of Baby’s personality. He is the quiet protagonist who uses music as an escape from his tinnitus (“a hum on the drum,” according to the criminal mastermind Doc), as well as means of protection and isolation. He also uses sunglasses for that. Except for when he’s at home with his foster dad Joseph (and later with the waitress Deborah), he always wears shades and headphones as a shield against the criminal elements surrounding him.

Baby isn’t a bad person. He’s a kind, genuinely caring guy who got into trouble when he was younger. All he wants is to pay off the debt he owes Doc so that he can live an honest life. He actually seems untouched by his work in the sense that it hasn’t made him bitter, or molded him into a person like trigger-happy Bats who enjoys the thrill of robbing and killing people.

It might be on account of the bond he has with his foster dad – an elderly, deaf man in a wheelchair – who encourages Baby to do better. (Side note: It’s cool seeing that Baby learned American sign language and reading lips from Joe.) When he helps him get a job as a pizza delivery guy, Joe says to Baby, “You only have to wash your hands once after counting that money.”

Additionally, music is Baby’s direct connection with his mother who was a singer (and a waitress at the diner he frequents). Meanwhile, violence in itself is a reminder of his father who was abusive and controlling. The last memory of his parents is them arguing loudly in the car right before fatally crashing. Fortunately, Baby still has the tape with his mother singing. Until Deborah walks into his life, music is the only positive thing he has going on (their romance is really sweet BTW).

Interestingly, Baby won’t try to get Doc and the others arrested, even though he never wastes an opportunity to secretly record their conversations. Instead he uses the tapes to make remixes, like the one between Doc and Griff who thinks Baby is a weirdo: “What’s the deal with headphones over there? […] I mean, is he retarded?”

Nonetheless, that hobby mucks things up for him later…

The whole point of Griff was to work as a counterpart to Baby’s character, to show what Baby could become and to bring the warning or ‘prophetic message’ as we call it in creative writing. Griff seems to think that Baby doesn’t deserve the same cut as him since he didn’t even get out of the car. He (and later Bats too) is suspicious of his soft-looking, silent colleague and repeatedly tries to scare him. Eventually Griff tells Baby that one day he’ll get his hands bloody: “You can’t be in crime without being a little criminal.”

Personally I think it was a shame that Griff didn’t last beyond that scene in the elevator. He displayed such exaggerated machismo and that stuff just makes me laugh. Bats replaced him in way; they were very much alike. Having two of them could have given Baby even more trouble, which makes for a good story.

As said, the music serves as a barrier between Baby and his less-than-friendly partners. He stays mentally focused on whatever song is playing, bouncing in the seat as though a fight for life-or-death isn’t happening a few yards away. He looks away when Griff fires his shotgun at the ceiling. During another heist, he blocks the audience’s view when Bats and the other two gunmen go after a guard by driving the car slightly forward. He bobs his head to “Neat Neat Neat” by The Damned while the commotion happens in the background. We get to see some of Baby’s horror when he catches sight of the guard, now dead and bleeding out on the pavement. I say ‘some’ because he’s wearing his dark shades.

We’re shown again and again that Baby isn’t a heartless criminal: He prevents Bats from killing someone, he goes out of his way to get Joe out of danger and – one of the two most important turning-points, if you ask me – he saves a woman he doesn’t know. During the third job in the movie (the first one since Baby finished paying his debt), he’s waiting outside a post office and notices the teller he spoke to only a few days ago, on her way to work. She recognizes him through the windshield and waves at him. In response, he shakes his head no; don’t go inside.

True to Griff’s warning, Baby gets blood on his hands. He’s forced to “face the music” (as Buddy grimly tells him) once it becomes clear that he can’t disappear quietly from his criminal life. He has to fight his way out of it. When he doesn’t immediately drive away from the crime scene, Bats hits Baby in the face with the barrel of his shotgun and knocks out one of the lenses on his shades. Finally we get to see the fear in Baby’s eyes, most likely the fear he’s felt for years since he became a getaway driver.

Despite that fear, he makes the decision to move forward. Literally forward into a truck, killing Bats, then fleeing on foot, both from the police and his former colleagues while the chaotic song “Focus” by Hocus Pocus blasts in his ears. From then on it’s a bumpy ride for Baby, with several twists and turns I didn’t expect, and an ending that felt real.

In the second important turning point, Baby chooses to stop running. How refreshing! I’m glad that instead of having Baby running from the law with his friend Deborah, he takes the keys out of the engine and says to her, “You don’t belong in this world.” He accepts the consequences of his actions – “faces the music” so to speak. More so, thanks to his better nature, people vouch for him during his trial.

After five years in prison, Baby… well, his real name is Miles… Miles is released on parole and meets Deborah outside the gates. She’s waiting for him by a car, ready to head west with music they love and a plan they don’t have.


If you want to listen to the songs from Baby Driver, I made a playlist.

Letter to My College Freshman Self


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Graduation Day (May 9, 2015).

You’re nineteen.

You have moved away from home. Sure, you live in a dorm so it’s not like you have to worry about “adult things” like utility bills. You jokingly consider yourself “an adult in-training” as you attend classes and try to do everything… and I do mean everything. Why not, right? You know pretty much everything by now. You just need to find ‘your’ group. And you’re tough, too, right? You don’t need anyone’s help and you can just ignore those horrible roommates the school stuck you with. No problem.


First of all, if your living situation is less than acceptable, talk to your RA (residential assistant). Your home is your castle. You should feel at the most ease in your dorm room and if you can’t work things out with your roommates, don’t stick it out. Talk with you RA and/or the resident hall director. They can get a new room for you. It won’t be an issue. You won’t be the first who got the roommate from hell (or Sweet Christmas, three of those).

So listen, kid… getting that high school diploma didn’t give you superpowers. You’re still the shy, eager-to-please, gullible nerd you were before. Finding yourself and your path won’t happen overnight. Most of your classmates have no clue either. Really, they got no idea what they’re doing. Why do you think they’re partying so much? It’s not just for good fun. They’re killing time and avoiding the hard decisions they have to make.

You also shouldn’t feel like you need to re-enact everything you’ve seen in the movies. Hollywood exaggerates. The idea that every college student drinks, smokes weed and gets laid on a weekly basis isn’t true for everyone, and doing all those things (or attempting to do them) won’t make you cool. Doing them doesn’t make you uncool either. That is another thing someone should have told you: In real life, there is no cool table, just tables with various people.

Find people who you can truly call friends, people who embrace you for who you are, people who love you, people you can trust, people who will have your back through the good times and the bad ones. I can’t stress enough how important that is, especially if you moved someplace new. Once you’ve found those friends, hold on with both hands. Their friendship will mean the world to you after you go your separate ways and pursue different careers.

As cheesy as it sounds, stay true to who you are. College is the time to meet people, try new things and find what you care about. Nevertheless, don’t change for anyone. Don’t change to fit in. If it doesn’t feel right, maybe it’s not meant to be. Plus, it’s okay to feel scared while you explore; that comes with leaving your comfort zone. Whatever personal growth occurs, will happen naturally. That shyness and eager-to-please notion, for instance, they will melt away. Experience will replace gullibility with skepticism. One day you will feel great standing in the spotlight and you won’t care what other people think of you.


Don’t over-schedule. Reserve some time for yourself.

That said, don’t stress about the milestones (declaring a major, internships, et cetera), or about finding the perfect college experience. Yes, there are deadlines for some things, but don’t panic. Run things according to your own clock.

Which brings me to my next point: Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. Some people know early on who they are and what they want to be. Some people know exactly where they belong. Some people get married early. Some have a path laid out for them, by fate or other factors. Some people discovered their passions before you and use their time at college to express them.

Whatever choices you make during your time at college, take responsibility for them.

It’s perfectly normal to feel homesick. No one will blame you for calling Mom once a day. No one will blame you for talking with a success coach or counselor. It can be difficult to acclimate to a new, exciting setting and there’s no shame in asking for help. Considering a college campus is essentially a hub of all walks of life, it can feel pretty chaotic, maybe even archaic.

This ties in with the likely academic troubles you might run into as well: Never turn down help. Talk with your professor or instructor. Don’t be afraid to get a tutor. Most colleges have a math center and a writing center, so utilize them when you can.

As for money, let me tell you this: Keep an eye on your green. Or you might have less than $200 by the end your freshman year from splurging on so much nonsense. You probably won’t even know where it all went. And for the love of god, get a job, I don’t care you’re a freshman. You’ll need the cash. Writing articles for the college paper doesn’t count.

Besides, it wouldn’t kill you to help more to pay for college: There are scholarships, grants, student loans and various options for young people. (It won’t get easier in grad school.) Loans do sound scary but there are also companies that can help you figure out a payment plan, like Earnest who specializes in student loan refinancing, so it doesn’t mean your life will be put on hold until it’s all paid off.

If you want a job on campus, apply as soon as possible. They tend to be more forgiving towards your class schedule, but the positions are really competitive.

And try to have fun. Your kind of fun, not the Hollywood-type of fun if that isn’t you. You do you. Don’t make college more stressful than it needs to be.


Tales to Tell: We have more than one story


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Lately I have been thinking a lot about storytelling. Not just about what stories we tell, but how they’re told and to whom we’re telling it. You see, for my thesis, I’m going to study the new portrayal of male superheroes, and I would also like to do some audience research. After all, media has a great influence on people. What we see on the screen, on billboards, magazine covers and so forth, it tells us of the standards and traits that are considered valuable to society and what we “should” avoid.

I’ll give you an example: A teenage boy sees a bunch of muscular hunks on men’s magazines, men that look so differently than him and that seem to be loved and admired by everyone. These magazines talk about cars, sports and gadgets, which he may or may not be particularly interested in, but he’s shown in various ways that “a real man” should like these things. Furthermore he sees that same hunk in movies and advertisements. He sees athletes being praised more than studious people like him. When he can’t find it within himself to behave like “a real man,” he starts to wonder if there’s something wrong with him. In media studies, we call that shit “symbolic annihilation.”

I’m not saying that media controls us. The people in our lives have a greater impact on us than the media; our parents, role models, teachers, classmates, co-workers, et cetera. However, culture is something that feeds off people, media and the contagious relationship between people and media. The reason why Wonder Woman is such a big hoot isn’t just because the protagonist is a woman: It was directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins, director of Monster, 2003, and Five, 2011). In case you didn’t know, there aren’t that many women directors in Hollywood. Some of you guys might be sick of hearing that Hollywood is sexist, but it remains a fact. This movie, though, brings something new and fresh to the industry, like these things: The gaze never treats Diana as a sexual object, she’s portrayed as a person. Jenkins shows a very human yet powerful superhero who brushes off the sexism she meets in the man’s world with such class. I really love that the movie has Chris Pine serving as a side-kick character too.

I care about this stuff because I’m a writer as well as a scholar. I write mostly historical fiction and fantasy, a mix of them sometimes (which is super fun!), plus some poetry whenever inspiration strikes. I love to experiment with different writing styles and storytelling elements because that’s one thing I look for when I dive into a book, a TV show or movie: Innovation. For instance, the other day I found out that the writer and director of Baby Driver Edgar Wright wrote the script according to the music. Everything happening in the movie directly connects with the songs that Baby is listening to. Now that’s either going to be really effing cheesy… or really awesome!


I’m writing this particular entry on storytelling today, because I just finished reading a scholarly article on the Amazon television show Transparent by Steven Funk and Jaydi Funk (“Transgender Dispossession in Transparent: Coming Out as an Euphemism for Honesty,” 2016). The show is about a divorced transgender woman who struggles with coming out to her family. It’s supposed to be good for the transgender community and an exploration of homophobia (also known as heterosexism). But since it’s aimed at a straight audience, it doesn’t fulfill this goal. The authors stated that Transparent “underscores the need for a critical reconsideration of media (mis)representation of trans individuals” (p. 188).

Here is part of my response paper to the reading:

‘Transparent isn’t unlike the movie Boys Don’t Cry in the sense that the protagonist is forced to announce their “real” gender and to conform to a gender script. When they disrupt the cultural norms, they are ostracized and punished for their actions (or inactions). Funk and Funk (2016) are right that the show brings up the need for a critical reconsideration of media (mis)representations of trans individuals. In fact, almost every “gay anthem” TV show or movie that I see in the mainstream media has one or two main plots: It’s either about coming out of the closet or it’s a movement against the system. I personally feel like there are more stories to be told about the gay community. Why can’t we just have TV shows and movies where the protagonist is part of the LGBTQIA community, but their sexuality isn’t the plot? Like I’ve said in class, in progressive countries like Sweden, there is no need to come out; people just live their lives because it’s not considered a big deal. You love who you love.

Reading this article reminded me of a Guardian piece I read right before, titled “I want to stroll Tehran’s streets at night, like men can: writer Fereshteh Ahmadi”. It talks about how the change in the Iranian regime has created more freedoms for women, specifically for writers. There’s still room for improvements, but for now, women writers can actually get their stories and books published. The major point I drew from that article is that Iran isn’t filled with terrorists, dictators and warlords—but those are the stories we’re getting in the Western world.


Fereshteh Ahmadi (from Guardian article).

Ahmadi said, “When we want to know deeply about other people, we go and read their stories, watch their cinema but all these years, there has only been a focus on bold issues in Iran. That’s why people, their identity, their connections and their private lives that have similarities to lives in other parts of the world [are] forgotten in the middle of this.” Similarly all the stories we’re getting from the gay/trans community is about the closet and the movement. Instead of trying to appease homophobes and/or straight people, it would be better to tell stories about people who aren’t hetero-normal without solely focusing on their sexuality and gender identity. Those factors definitely influence their lives when they live in a patriarchal society, but it isn’t all about that jazz. They have dreams and aspirations like everyone else and different stories to tell. The insistence of telling certain kinds of “gay tales” emphasizes the fact the authors make, the fact that everyone is dispossessed of the right to create an authentic sense of selfhood. A gay character isn’t allowed to be more than their sexuality on screen.’

What I’m trying to say is that we have more than one story to tell and there are many that have been unheard so far.

As if I’m not busy enough, I began dabbling with a new project… A few days after Wonder Woman came out in theaters, a friend of mine said on Facebook, “Can I get a movie about a black FEMALE superhero please k thanks!?

My immediate response to that was:

On it. *puts on sunglasses and types furiously at laptop*

Two weeks later, the character came to me like a vision. I won’t tell you anything about her yet, because I’m still putting the story outline together. For now, I want you to know her name: Shine.


UPDATE on 7/6/17: Results are in… Baby Driver is really awesome!

My Goal as a Member of the Student Advisory Council in AAUW


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June 2 2017

Standing where Martin Luther King once stood, holding his speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (June 2, 2017).

Pretty soon I’m going to begin my term as a member of the Student Advisory Council in AAUW (American Association of University Women). I will represent the branch (along with a few others) at Oakland University in Rochester, MI from July 1 till June 30 next year. For those who don’t know, AAUW is an organization that has promoted equity and education for girls and women since 1881. It’s a nationwide group and in retrospect, I’m a small cog in the machine. Nonetheless, it’s such an honor to be part of something bigger than myself.

It’s going to be an exciting year! I have several ideas for my term, and I hope that I can make positive impact on people’s lives. I can’t share my plans yet. I’m still in the process of ironing out the details and I have to talk it over with the rest of the council, of course. One thing I can say for sure, though, is that I want to create a greater sense of unity on campus, to make both men and women feel like they have somewhere to turn.

As much as we talk about social media making it easier to maintain relationships, too many people are lonely these days. That’s something that became apparent to me after NCCWSL (National Conference of College Women Student Leaders) in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. At the opening session, I became so overwhelmed by the connection I felt with all the women in the room and the outpouring of love and support that I started crying. And I wasn’t the only person who balled during that three-day conference.

I believe that right now it’s more important than ever to focus on the things we have in common and to celebrate each other’s differences. There’s so much fighting over political views these days that people seem to forget what is important. I won’t dwell too much on our president and his administration, because this isn’t about them: It’s about the future. It’s about optimism. As bad as greed and hatred is troubling our country, we have to keep in mind that it will pass. It will pass. Things will become better. We have to remember that through love, acceptance and unity, we can mold something beautiful out of the ugliness.

One of the lessons I took from the conference is that no matter who’s on top, people only have as much power as they let themselves believe. And you have power to create change in your neighborhood. You have a lot of power and you have more flexibility than the politicians out there, who let their actions be guided by votes and money. They got nothing on you, friend.

And remember, there is strength in numbers.


Bellow is the letter I wrote when I applied for the job:

My name is Anna Palm and I’m excited to provide my application for the open position in the Student Advisory Counsel.

As a new member of the American Association of University Women, I believe it would be a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the community and promote a more positive environment where women can feel safe and empowered to pursue their dreams. Besides it would be a blast!

I am working on my master’s in communication with a focus on media studies at Oakland University. It was in fact Valerie Palmer-Mehta who told me about the organization, and the people were warm and welcoming when I attended a meeting for the first time. Elaine Taylor and Josetta Wood have been attentive to my ideas regarding the sexual assault awareness month.

One was to create flyers that visually talk about victim blaming. They would show a person covering their own mouth and a line such as, “I don’t want to make it worse” or “Maybe I’m overreacting.”

Additionally to the issues created by rape culture, I care about women in STEM, women friendships and reproductive rights. As for women friendships, I have noticed that too often women fight amongst themselves or put each other down over petty differences. I would like to change that, starting with fun activities like trust building exercises, team art projects, panels or even founding a book club.

Reproductive rights is an obvious matter. I was born and raised in Sweden, where sex education is taught in the fifth grade, and where abortion has been legal and free since 1974. The woman doesn’t even have to offer the doctor a reason. It’s a foreign concept to me that such fundamental health rights should be denied to American citizens in the 21st century.           

As an adviser, I hope to create events and activities not only for AAUW members but men and women on campus as well. I hope to inspire kindness, open-mindedness, team work and creativity. I hope to work with a myriad of people who care about women and equality. I hope to achieve a sense of unity among my peers.

I would achieve this using my organizational skills, my knack for writing, research and social media, not to mention my sense of humor. Before I dove into academic research, I spent over four years working as a journalist (during my undergrad and post-graduation), gathering information through bits and pieces and telling people’s stories.

I also have a blog (, where I talk about writing, poetry and journalism as well as women’s issues, feminism and events concerning women.

During an internship project in 2013, three students and I worked on a collection of stories about organic farming in Michigan. Our mentor Tracy Anderson left us mostly to our own devices. I assumed a leadership role in our group early on, because there were many factors to consider and no one was stepping up to the plate. As a result, Midland Daily News released our articles on December 16 and 17, 2013. The main story was a collaborative effort by the four of us.

In the past year, I’ve been practicing Shotokan karate and learning the value of trust and respect. My dojo (school) has an oath, which we state in union at the end of every class: “Dojo kun [karate oath]. Seek perfection of character. Be faithful. Endeavor. Respect others. Refrain from violent behavior.” With or without a belt, I believe this is a motto to live by.

Thank you for your time. Have a lovely day!


            Anna Palm

Grad School: Part 4 – Time Management


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“You’re in grad school now, so… you’ll figure it out.”

My professor’s words when some of us (myself included) carefully mentioned to her that there was a lot of reading. Considering that we meet twice a week and that all of us got jobs and other obligations, it’s difficult to squeeze Rosalind Gill, Amanda Lotz and a bunch of other scholars into our schedule. But alas, we’re in grad school! Just deal with it!

914ABR9wTkL I knew by reputation that our professor would load tons of work on us when I registered for this summer class. I thought to myself that no matter how hard it would get, I would suck it up and fight through it. There’s just no way I’m spending more than two years in grad school.

That said, I’m glad this wasn’t my first class in the grad program (“Gender, Sexuality and the Media” in case you’re wondering). Don’t get me wrong, our professor is a treat! And I love the material! There’s just so much of it. Tons of reading for every session and once a week we got to turn in a response paper to at least one article or chapter. Everyone has to lead the discussion once, which means reading everything, knowing it well, preparing main points and questions, and providing examples. The professor is also asking for written summaries of our reading material and a list of questions. For the end-game, she’s asking for a paper and a final in-class exam. She doesn’t mess around.

My discussion leader was surprisingly fun. We were talking about postfeminist men’s media culture, in this case specifically about male friendships on screen, the bromance and the homosocial enclave. The latter is a term for when a group of men have their own space to freely express themselves, like in Entourage, Men of a Certain Age and Rescue Me. I used the episode “Nelson v. Murdock” from Daredevil on Netflix, which is all about the friendship between Matt and Foggy. It was perfect and incited a great discussion afterwards.


Flashback scene of Foggy and Matt at Josie’s in “Nelson v. Murdock” (1/10); Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix.

Now I can finally focus on the final project! It can be either a research paper or a research proposal. I’ve decided to do a research proposal. I’ve thought about it all semester really. It will serve well as a draft for when I propose my thesis later this year. More on that another time… It’s due in two weeks (well, 12 days), which isn’t really a lot. I’d love to have an entire month rummaging through research… but like I said earlier, I just gotta deal with it.

And this brings me to time management. I was fortunate to take a workshop on this recently at NCCWSL (National Conference of College Women Student Leaders) so despite the limitations, I don’t feel freaked out about this. Hopefully that sense of calm with stay. I will talk about what I learned in this workshop in detail next month, but for now I want to focus on time management in regards to putting a project together when you have other things on your plate.

First of all, don’t panic. Breathe. Tell yourself it will be alright (telling yourself that enough will make it a reality). If you feel yourself getting stressed or frustrated, simply step away from the project and do something to help you relax. Personally I like to meditate for five minutes or so.

Don’t confuse that with procrastination, of course. As someone who pulled four all-nighters during her undergrad, I beg you not to procrastinate. It’s pure hell trying to finish a project when you’re tired and everything hurts.

A few ways to avoid procrastination is planning, splitting the work into chunks, rewarding yourself occasionally and speaking with your professor.

Actually talk with your professor first. Write down all your ideas, prepare a few questions and then explain what you want to do. Listen to your professor and figure out how to proceed from there. I’m not saying that you have to do everything your professor tells you. It’s your judgment call on which advice to accept and which to reject.

The planning won’t be as tricky as it seems. Begin by looking at your schedule and marking sections of time where you won’t do anything but focus on your project. Set goals for yourself by either turning to your calendar or writing a timeline. I prefer the timeline because it allows more flexibility. Sometimes when we write to-do lists for ourselves and don’t finish everything at once (or “miss” that date we wrote down), we have the tendency to feel like we didn’t do anything. The timeline will give you an idea on where you are in the process. It can also tell you whether you need to move on at some point in order to make the finish line.

Try to be realistic. Think about how you work and how fast you work. (If you know that well enough, perhaps the calendar will work for you.)

If things don’t work exactly as planned, that’s okay. Don’t panic. Breathe. You’re human.

Again, do the work in chunks. You won’t finish a project in one sitting.

Please, if you feel stuck, ask for help. Turn to your professor, your classmates, your mom, I don’t care. Sometimes it may be that you’re just feeling pressured and need to talk with someone. I’ve found that talking about my work really helps the creative process and works as a stress reliever.

Do the best you can. Have fun with it. Don’t even think about the grade, just do your best. Remember that when you turn in your project, knowing you put time and effort into it, you did well. Yes, you did well! You should feel proud.

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