Music Review: Dreamcatcher – Alone in the City

Wudup, fellow Somnias?! Dreamcatcher is back to grace us with yet another comeback today!

With the huge success of Escape the Era and its lead track YOU AND I attracting even more fans than ever before, does What continue to build on the Dreamcatcher legacy?

Well let’s take a look and find out by first enjoying the music video together (if you haven’t already spammed it a couple times this morning like I have):

What? What. Wat? Wot? What!

What is a very breathtaking thrill ride! No that was a statement, not a question. What do you mean, “what’s a breathtaking thrill ride?” What is! The song What! By Dreamcatcher.

Okay, I had to get that out of system. Excuse me.

Go to any YouTube comments section for a Dreamcatcher video, and I bet you’ll find a handful of comments saying their music sounds like anime music. If we’re going to think along those lines, then this song sounds like the appropriate fresh new sound an anime’s 5th season should sound like.

You know, the cast has gone through so much together and have grown a lot since the 1st season. They have a brighter outlook on their journey realizing how powerful they can be, so it sounds brighter, but not too bright as to imply their journey is over. There’s still a hint of much more ahead, but they have even that much more confidence in taking it on.

All in all, strong intro to the song and I welcome the change more, surprisingly much more than say how Fly High kind of threw me off guard at first. For What, my enjoyment of it was more instantaneous.

The verses are mostly identical sounding to me and that’s okay. Notably for the second verse, I like how the distorted guitars come back immediately rather than being built up to as they are in the first verse. They’re sparse with a couple power chord strums as to not overshadow the vocals and busier synth and violin combo. And of course give space for the vocals to shine as they should.

Melodically I don’t think the verses are that interesting. Every member definitely gets the job done when it’s their time to shine. We’re still treated to a very short Handong moment in the second verse and it makes me sad that they didn’t give her another line for the bridge because hearing her sing in that range I realize her vocal timbre does seem to fit better with the more laid back sections of songs.

And now while it’s easy to fanboy about Siyeon and Yoohyeon’s power vocals, Jiu’s soothing yet hauntingly soft voice, Sua’s badassery, Gahyeon’s innocence and charm–I think it’s time to admit that I’m a closeted Dami bias. My growing fondness for her is growing the way it has for Moonbyul of Mamamoo where they both started off as the underutilized rapper now allowed to reach their potential by getting some actual vocal lines, and by golly does Dami own both of her sections in this song like a bawss!

The chorus is composed a lot simpler than previous tracks, but that doesn’t take away from how catchy it is with its 90’s sounding dance melody, and the syncopated What’s help keep the song going. After all, who doesn’t love a little syncopation and accentuated break beats that the “break up my dream” part provides. It goes well with the lyrics like moments in a nightmare where you think you’re about to wake up, but there’s still more to haunt you because the second post chorus treats us to a nice chuggy riff.

This could just be the metalcorefag in me, but I want to hear more chuggy riffs in Dreamcatcher songs. I felt they were too short in Fly High (why do I keep comparing this song to that one?), but even if they’re short in What as well, it’s a nice smooth transition into the bridge. We get that intro piano riff again with Jiu singing over it this time before we’re blasted with the final chorus.

It’s strange that this is the second longest lead single by Dreamcatcher, but it doesn’t feel that long at all. It actually moves along at a brisk pace, none of the parts drag on, and ultimately feel like they transition together quite smoothly. Though it’s not structurally or even compositionally complex as their other songs (as far as I can tell), What gets the job done in introducing us to a new era in the Dreamcatcher world.

For delivering the goods, feeling shorter than it actually does, and somehow manages to impress me even if it had less dynamics and simpler verse construction than previous releases I give it a 5/5


What vs Alone in the City

I actually love What just as much as any other lead single Dreamcatcher, and I definitely welcome Happy Face Entertainment wanting to experiment with their sound a little bit. But it’s for that reason that I feel a bit conflicted about the rest of the album.

Intro: Epic as always and builds the expectation that Dreamcatcher will continue to deliver the rock sensibilities that distinguish them from their peers. And this time with more electronic sounding synths, dare I say EDM and dubstep-ish even if ever so slightly. It would be a nice welcome changed from the more classical strings sounding synths from previous releases.

By default I usually love short instrumental intros that build up the hype and tension for the title track that follows them so it gets a score of 5/5!

Wonderland: The track following What on the album is a nice dark sounding R&B track. It’s a nice pallete clenser after the adrenaline rush What is as it does slow down the pace a bit. It has some nice wub wub wub sounds for the chorus and I generally EDM and dubstep so that stuff is pretty cool.

Though I can’t help compare its post chorus vocal melody to Loona’s track Perfect Love off of their OT12 debut album. Because my ear is accustomed to Perfect Love’s pre-chorus, my brain tries to fill in the gaps during Wonderland with Perfect Love’s fuller sounding melody. Then before I know it, the song ends on a very abrupt note. It could have benefited from a short instrumental outro that sounded different from the rest of the song, but it didn’t.

Maybe this song needs more time to grow on me as its own entity, and it does have a nice overall vibe, but its abrupt stop and its similarities to Loona’s Perfect Love it gets a 3.5/5

Trap: After Sleepwalking, everyone seemed to want Dreamcatcher to explore what they can do with a more EDM sound and I’m actually happy we got that with Trap. The chorus has some decent wubbing and the vocals and their melodies are pretty good. I actually do like this song’s clean guitars comboing with the piano for the verses and outro, but that chuggy riff at the start kind of pisses me off!

Wait, didn’t you say you wanted more chuggy riffs in Dreamcatcher songs?

Yes, I did say that!

But it kicks so much ass that it’s so disappointing that it never comes back later in the song, nor do the distorted guitars at all. You know, the instrumental element that sets Dreamcatcher apart from other K-Pop groups? It’s a huge let down that they didn’t employ any more rock into this otherwise decent EDM track.

I would probably love it more if I wasn’t deceived by that distorted guitar riff at the beginning building up an expectation for me. And once again a very very abrupt stop to the song doesn’t give me time to savour the other good stuff that has going for it. I mean, I know What ends very shortly after the vocals do, but so far Wonderland and Trap both have that problem of ending with not much of a bang or climax. Or since they are softer songs than the rock infused lead track, they could have easily faded out instrumentally or have just a few seconds for us to savour the beat with a more definite finish.

Did I mention how much it pisses me off that they only used distorted guitars for the coolest part far too early and far too sparsely in this song? I mean with the tom drums pounding for the pre-chorus they missed an opportunity to put a palm muted riff! Why you gonna play me like that?

Sorry, but Trap gets a 3/5

July 7th: Is the date that Love Shake was released back when Dreamcatcher was Minx and had five members instead of seven. Hence it has a bit of a tropical kind of sound that takes a bit getting used to, especially after how much dark, aggressive, and fast paced music we’ve gotten so far from Dreamcatcher.

Yes, yes, I know. There were the ballads of course and those were nice contrasts to the heavy lead singles.

And speaking of the ballads does the July 7th chorus sound familiar?

If it does, then you would notice that it’s the same vocal melody as Lullaby, but slightly altered to better fit this tropical house track that I suppose also needs time to grow on me. But once again. What is up with the abrupt endings to the songs on this album?! July 7th does it also…

It’s a shame too because the bassline to this track is quite groovy and does well to compliment the swankier vocal style they were able to experiment with. I would give this song 2/5 because reggae and the whole tropical feel is not really my cup of tea…because…it’s a glass of pineapple juice instead–

(Yeah let’s pretend I didn’t make that shitty joke…)

BUT! I do like the vocal melody and style of this song as well as the nods to Lullaby by not only borrowing its chorus melody, but also having a piano riff that’s similar to Lullaby’s that is snuck into the end of the bridge. So that much I can give them credit for 4/5


Final Thoughts

Like any other Somnia I am proud of what Dreamcatcher has accomplished in the past year and a half since they’ve redebuted. They took the K-Pop world by storm with a unique rock and horror concept with powerful choreography that can only contend with the likes of GFriend whose only similarity to them is the anime intro shtick. But otherwise, the two groups are drastically different from each other in genre.

Despite of the negative criticism I’ve given to this album I think it is still a nice step forward for Dreamcatcher to continue expanding their genre range. It’s interesting to hear what their voices are capable of adapting to, they can do it all; they can rock out, soothe us with a lullaby, or get us to rave dance very embarassingly by accidentally knocking things off your desk, which is something I totally didn’t do when I first heard Sleepwalking off of Prequel.

But yeah…the rocker in me is sorely sorely disappointed from the lack of rock tunes and sensibilities the group is meant for. I loved Escape the Era for them totally owning that sound and I love that the company delayed its release as it gave us a much more polished product with better overall song structures and dynamics, whereas Alone in the City feels a bit rushed to me. There weren’t any memorable moments where I feel like constantly rewinding the song to re-experience them.

For instance when Yoohyeon blasts her power vocals back in after Dami and Handong’s vocal trade in Good Night’s second verse, or when Mayday goes for a soft rendition of its chorus after the bridge right before the full band kicks in. And let’s not forget the pre-chorus of Chase Me, the song that started it all, surprising the hell out of everyone with the distorted guitars there being introduced for the first time ever.

Anyways those are my initial thoughts on Alone in the City. My opinions may change upon more relistens, but that’s how I felt upon a first impression. I am usually conscious of how my expectations for artists cloud my objectivity to enjoy any new music from them, but it always goes three of the same ways:

  1. They defy expectations and I am instantly in love with the new direction.
  2. They defy expectations, but I’m on the fence about it and need time to let it sink in.
  3. They defy expectations and I can’t stand it because either my expectations were too high and/or they simply failed to top what they delivered before no matter how much I try to re-listen to their new stuff

Let’s hope for option number 2 because I like to retain some amount of optimism in life.


Be Sure to Support Dreamcatcher By Purchasing Their Music Through:

  1. iTunes
  2. K-Pop Mart
  3. Yes Asia

 

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How to Create Instantly Likeable Characters

One of the best writing guides I’ve read and studied from lately is The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Mass. It has some incredible insights on not just how to craft the emotional landscape of your work of fiction, but also a handful of other insights on how to get in touch with your own emotional world to better inform the characters you create. After all, the characters we create in one shape or form are extensions of ourselves all of which who yearn to be understood and expressed with the respect they deserve.

Crafting characters, as you know, is one of my favourite aspects of writing because without people there are no stories. It is through the characters that we get to relate to in navigating the human experience, and that’s why it’s important to make them as true to life as possible, no matter what the setting is or whatever other lifeform they take that isn’t exactly human.

For many years I’ve had pre-conceptions of what makes relatable and likeable characters, and unfortunately a lot of those pre-conceptions were at a very shallow, if not obvious, layer of the human spirit. Make your characters flawed like real people. Take traits from people you know and blend them together. Oh and let’s not forget; give them goals, motivation, and conflict like every other human being has.

And while these are all important aspects of what create multi-dimensional characters, I am here to introduce something that I’ve missed over the years!


Virtue as the Cornerstone of Love

We live in a world where gritty anti-heroes are starting to take centre stage, villains are becoming more sympathizable, and we have overall entered into an era in which there’s a strange embracing of the darkness. And yes of course this all important to our evolution in not only our tastes in fiction, but also our human progression, but one thing that hasn’t had much spotlight on lately is virtue.

An act of kindness goes a long way.

They seem insignificant in the moment, but a bunch of tiny acts of kindness add up.

And in the end, it all makes for a better world to live in if we could all just give each other a helping in whatever way we can.

Whenever we see someone or hear about someone doing a good thing for someone else, it makes us feel good by extension. That’s because we’re social empathetic creatures. We end up feeling the good nature of the giver who gave a helping hand to someone who needed it and we feel the gratitude of the person in need. Throughout our lives we fluxuate between being people who are capable of giving to the less fortunate, and being in unfortunate situations ourselves in need of the generousity of others.

Whether it’s from a stranger or a close loved one, we can’t help but feel a sense of euphoria from an act of kindness we either give to or receive from others. This can range from simple things like dropping a few coins in the shaking can of a homeless person on the street to something more personal and expansive like lending an empathic ear to a friend who has a problem to deal with. Nothing feels better than a win-win situation where we don’t have to lose something of value, whether it was a long awaited desire or a piece of our conscience.

Whatever way you choose to create your characters, it’s imperative that you give them an act of virtue that makes your reader develop a natural admiration for them. Even if you choose to create an anti-hero character who is resistant to their responsibility of greatness, we want to see at least a glimpse of goodness in them because it’s the potential that we want to root for so it can come into fruition later on in the story.

Saving a Cat Moment

In Emotional Craft of Fiction, Donald writes about how a simple saving a cat moment can make a protagonist instantly likeable, especially if you include it early on in the story. This gets us to admire the goodness in thecharacter and in turn remind us of the goodness in ourselves–and to take it even further it allows us to see the potential in ourselves to become even better human beings.

So what does a Saving a Cat Moment look like?

It can literally be saving a cat that’s stuck in a tall tree.

Or it can be something more subtle or even more grand than that!

Here are some rapid fire examples from my own stories and other stories I’ve enjoyed over the years. None of them will be ultra specific as to boil down the core principles of the acts themselves.

How to Save a Cat in Several Ways

  • Stepping in when someone is being bullied
  • Mentoring an eager apprentice in a specific skill or vocational path
  • Comforting someone in grief
  • Equipping someone with an important life lesson
  • Providing someone with a sense of purpose
  • Volunteering at an old folks’ home or a homeless shelter
  • Helping the disabled get around town
  • Saving a suicide victim moments before they execute their plan
  • Saving a child from an abusive home situation
  • A parent bonding deeply with their child
  • A spouse bonding deeply with their partner
  • Admitting to fault and asking for forgiveness

The list can go on forever. There’re definitely an infinite amount of other examples I could have put and some that you are starting to think of right now, in which case feel free to share in the comments below!

The point is that whatever good deed your characters perform, they need to come from an earnest and authentic place, even if they have resistance toward it at the beginning. It might be a hard sell if the character performs the deed for admiration and ego gratification as opposed from the goodness of their heart. But you can even make it so that it can start off as an ego boost that eventually touches the character in a deep and moving way where it inspires them to seek even more virtue.

So there you have it, one of the best ways to make instantly likeable characters. It may be obvious to others, but this fell under my radar for a very long time having been so obsessed with the more technical aspect of writing over the years. Sometimes we all need to get back to the basics and remember what we all (hopefully) learned in kindergarten: be kind and share your toys with other kids.

Now I’d like to hear from you, the reader!

What are some other good deeds can we add to the list? What good deeds have you writte your characters to perform in your stories? What acts of kindness from fiction and reality have inspired you?

And as always, if you have any feedback on my writing tips feel free to comment down below. Did I miss something? Should I elaborate more or less? Even feel free to tell me if it was completely useless information, in which you are welcome to give me your two cents on how I can improve Your Write to Live!

Music Review: Dreamcatcher – YOU AND I

dc eteWhile we’re just a couple days away from Dreamcatcher’s comeback with Alone in the City, I figured I should finally review the final chapter of the Nightmare Era with a breakdown on the song YOU AND I and its music video.

I wrote my Dreamcatcher Trilogy Review last year during the Fly High era and somehow in the past couple months, that full page where I review all of their first three music videos has been a getting a ton of hits. I don’t know how and a part of me is curious to know if someone’s been it around or if people just so happen to find my review through Google searches.

Whatever the case may be, I am eternally grateful for your readership, and as always remember to leave a comment and a like to let me know what you think of my take on the music and their music videos. Now without further adieu…


YOU AND I 

The Song: Quite the soft start for Dreamcatcher with the piano riff and straight into singing where we’ve gotten used to their explosive distorted guitar driven intros. But despite the soft start, we are still treated by the spooky sound Dreamcatcher is known for. It sounds like any other K-Pop with synethic ambience probably just to draw attention to newcomers, but still fits well within the context of Dreamcatcher’s overall feel.

For my first few listens I didn’t like that doorbell sound and thought it would only be included for the music video. However, I realized that its tone was actually in key with the piano and even serves to compliment as a strange and unique way to harmonize with the piano riff. It almost sounds part of it, but it sticks out enough to catch your attention. To this day I’m still ambivalent on whether or not I like it being there.

Anyways, we’re treated to the proper lead vocals from Jiu as we have come to expect in Dreamcatcher songs, and as always she slays. She does some vocal trades with Gahyeon who I didn’t realize actually had a lot more lines on this comeback, and rightfully so, she can pull off the edgy spooky thing that Dreamcatcher vocals require.

What I liked about this comeback was how it fulfilled my thirst for the distorted guitars. It’s what I look forward to with DC because no other K-Pop group, at least that I know of, employs aggressive electric guitar in their songs as the main instrument to back the vocals.

The build up to the chorus is awesome with that chaotic electric guitar slowly taking over the spooky string synths that provide a bit of atmosphere for us. And then bam! The bass kicks in and it’s groovy as hell. The full band is in swing with hard pounding drums, rockin guitars, and of course some more synths that ground the instrumentation to remind you this ain’t just straight up rock. There’s a horror element that you gotta pay homage to in regards to Dreamcatcher.

And do I really have to mention Siyeon and Yoohyeon’s power vocals being the most fitting trade for the catchy ass chorus? They are the ones powerful enough to contend with the heavy instrumentation before it starts to simmer down with more sparse vocal lines to give the more active guitar riff some space to shine.

Now we get to the second verse, and if you know me by now, you know I’m really picky about them. I really want them to unique from the first verse or it gets boring for me. You can use the same instrumentation or even the same vocal melodies, but change it up in some significant and noticable way so the song continues to progress.

My verdict? Well damn…now I see why her name is Dami. Makes me wanna say “damn!” a lot because I remember her singing voice being pretty good in their Minx ballad “I Just Like You,” and it made me wish they would employ her singing into Dreamcatcher more instead of sticking her to only rapping, sometimes only for very short bursts per song.

Well I got my wish! Dami’s deeper singing tone sets a nice contrast to the high pitches of Jiu, Yoohyeon, and Siyeon, and if that wasn’t enough for Dami biasers, she also gets to do what she does best to end her extended section off with a bit of rapping, along with those harmonized vocals continuing in the background. If that’s her harmonizing to herself, then damn, HappyFace finally realized how much she’s actually capable of because her higher end voice is pretty sweet too.

Anyways, enough Dami fanboying, she’s not even my bias…or wasn’t before, but now…?

Ok, let’s settle down, folks.

You calm down!

You know where I thought that HappyFace underestimated Dami being only suited for rapping, I felt the same way about Sua, but to my surprise her vocals are pretty powerful too as she delivers the first half of the second chorus. I am so sorry to her and Sua biasers. It’s not like I looked down upon her or anything, I always thought she and Dami were simply the dance and rap line this whole time, and you know I probably look stupid for not noticing Sua’s vocals in their other releases that I should probably revisit after this review.

Anyways we get treated to a different post-chorus as we approach the simmered down bridge. That palmed muted guitar riff is pretty awesome and the late introduction for the lead guitar to kind of shadow the vocal line is a nice touch before the full band slides out again to make room for softer vocals and atmospheric synths.

The final chorus could have easily bursted into a copy and paste of the first two, but what I really really appreciate about is how instead of doing that, it’s an appregiated piano version of the chorus instrumentation. Or at least that’s what it sounds like to me. Someone with a better ear and understanding of music theory is free to tell me if the piano riff is indeed using the same chords as the distorted guitars do.

But yeah it’s perfect to re-introduce the chorus this way so that Jiu gets one more chane to shine since she is the lead vocalist and the leader of the group, she deserves that spotlight. Plus her vocal timbre is much more suited for soft parts anyway and I don’t think she can pull off the power Siyeon and Yoohyeon are capable of.

That’s not to say she’s a bad singer, she’s an excellent singer, as they all are, and is much more fitted for this kind of section. I feel like her softer voice would have been buried by the heavy instrumentation if the composer would’ve gone the route of copying and pasting the original chorus for the outro.

And speaking of the official outro and the way the song ends, I always feel this way with Dreamcatcher songs, but basically I think it could have been a bit longer. That palm muted riff that leads to the very end to me still sounds like it ends the song too abruptly.

They could have went maybe four or eight more bars without vocals and extend the guitar solo. Though I would understand if the composer was being considerate for the girls since they already do some exhaustingly powerful moves throughout the choreography. Not to mention how Dreamcatcher is one of the few groups who actually do sing live all despite their tricky looking choreography and manage to sound stable for the most part.

Others would argue that the song ends when it needs to and it’s best that it doesn’t over stay its welcome, and I can agree with that too. I would personally prefer a bit more instrumental sections in K-Pop songs in general and for a group like Dreamcatcher tackling my original love for rock, it would be a welcome addition. It’s a tiny gripe, but it doesn’t sour my overall experience in any way. The only time it does is Fly High’s bridge that a lot of people feel like switches up too abruptly.

Nonetheless, good job on Dreamcatcher’s part for nailing the vocals and choreography, and as always HappyFace for hiring LEEZ and Oullander to compose this track. They never disappoint and continue to rock in the other album tracks of Escape the Era, which if you haven’t gotten it yet, I would strongly advise doing so.


The Music Video: Right away you have to notice the huge leap in production value for this music video compared to their previous titles. HappyFace has gotten increasingly more ambitious with Dreamcatcher music videos and I think that is indicative of probably how much the group is raking in for the company because they do have a lot of international fans the love and adore them. So I’m pretty sure those album sales, especially the unique and beautiful aesthetics of the photobooks and posters are definitely sure to please fans enough to buy these works of art en masse.

But anyways!

Let’s actually take a deeper look at the music video and how it relates to the rest of the Dreamcatcher lore.

Now I do have to admit that I’m the best theorist for either of the groups I stan (maybe I’ll start reviewing Loona someday!) so take what I say at face value and feel free to educate me on what you think and/or what has been confirmed when it comes to the overall storyline of Dreamcatcher.

So YOU AND I finds the girls in two distinct settings. One is the dark gothy house and the other is the bright and spacy Heaven like world with the giant portal swirling about with its ethereal energy. Yoohyeon is running toward the portal and we get a cut straight to Jiu and the girls in pretty hot gothy attire to match the decor of a gothy reneissance looking kind of house.

Now right away you will notice a whole lot of webs in both worlds; the house and the Heavenly like place. That is to remind us that it was revealed in Fly High that Yoohyeon killed a cursed spider that in turn cursed the girls to become nightmares, or so the theory goes.

Here and there we cuts of Siyeon developing pictures in a photgraphy room and using some kind of magic to burn a few images. I’m not quite sure what any of this is supposed to mean so I’ll cut straight to the whole ritualistic scene where we’ve got Yoohyeon laying on a stone pentagram and the girls surrounding her in the Heaven scene, and sitting in a chair with a ghost escaping her in the house scene.

To me this implies she’s the main character and the main cause of their curse, and the girls are now attempting to purge the demon out of her in the belief that they can free her and themselves for their curse.

And quick mention as it was the talk of the town, but Dami’s moves with the staff in the choreo is so badass. I kind of wish the music video emulated their live performances where the stick extends out of nowhere almost like magic instead of just being already out in the open. But either way, she twirls that mofo pretty bad assedly, and with the addition of the use of scarves by the other girls I think adds a nice new dynamic to the choreo. Makes me kind of wish that more groups used more props for the choreography. So props to the choreographer for coming up with these two cool additions to it.

Anyways we move on to a shot of Yoohyeon about to take a photo for a woman. I hesitate to say old because she looks middle aged but still youthful anyway. Asian genes, am I right? The ajumma looks up creepily at Yoohyeon as she takes the picture, and the flash reveals a spider shadow being cast on the wall and backdrop behind Yoohyeon. Oh and she passes out either from shock or an attack that happens off camera.

We finally see Yoohyeon running toward the portal in that Heavenscape and the portal closes on her as she just mere steps away from it. Jiu has also been running around being chased by an apparition throughout the music video if I failed to mention that earlier. Might be that the curse is trying to find a new human host for its evil bidding in Jiu?

The music video ends with Yoohyeon kneeling before the closed portal and the choreo shows Yoohyeon with her head flipped back and her eyes closed while Jiu has her hand on her throat. I think this is implying that Jiu is responsible for killing Yoohyeon in order to free Yoohyeon, herself, and the rest of the girls from the curse, but something went wrong during the exorcism.

At least that’s how I interpret it.

We saw in Fly High that Jiu wanted to capture spider, and for whatever reason, Yoohyeon took out some sadistic insecticide on it, and the spider’s spirit ended up killing Yoohyeon and her classmates turning them into nightmares. And there’s always been this duality in Dreamcatcher that I find interesting. The rock songs and music video imply that they are ghosts that haunt people in their sleep much like what they did to that ghost hunter in Chase Me and in Good Night.

But then their ballads imply that they’re not always evil and actually act like Dreamcatchers to protect people from nightmares. Whether or not they are the same beings, it’s all up for interpretation. Maybe we’re dealing with the same 7 girls throughout the entire lore of Dreamcatcher, or they have several groups of dopplegangers that serve different functions for people’s dreams.

Maybe there’s one group of Dreamcatchers committed to creating havoc in people’s dreams, and another group of Dreamcatchers that happen to share the resemblance that like to protect people in their dreams by giving them good ones. Or maybe they are the exact same group either haunting the evil and giving good dreams to good people, or their nature is completely arbitrary and they do as they please.

I don’t know. I haven’t entertained Dreamcatcher theories in a long time so I am kind of rusty on my knowledge of it.

If you have other ideas or know of good theory videos that explains that stuff significantly better than whatever I attempted just now, please feel free to share in the comments below!



Alone in the City

Dreamcatcher’s comeback is a couple days away! September 20, 2018 will mark a new era in the Dreamcatcher lore with a fresh new aesthetic and fresh new sounding music. From what I heard from a short album preview they have decided to go on a more electronic sounding route as opposed to sticking with heavy guitars. They’re still there, but not as prominent as they have been, and so far only appear to show up in their upcoming title track What.

Now this can go in either direction: this new sound they’re going for might alienate fans who strictly like them for their rock sound and/or attract new fans who are much more used to the poppier more EDM based kind of K-Pop.

Whichever the case is, I bid Dreamcatcher a whole lot of damn good luck in attracting new fans and pleasing veteran fans alike with their comeback which I will review for next week’s Tuney Tuesday.

Thank you very much! See you then!

2018’s Newest Linkin Park Fan

Hey, everybody, I just discovered a really cool band lately!

They’re called Linkin Park, and they’re really really good.

Wait, what? You’ve heard of them before? Same with everyone else?!

Yes, yes, I know. I am highly aware of how they debuted 18 years ago with the smash hit In the End an dominated the early 2000’s with several other hit singles. They were among the most popular bands at the time getting a ton of radio and TV time. But somehow I have only started to listen to their music and truly appreciate them now in the year 2018.

When I was your typical teen, faced with the growing of age pains, I listened to a whole lot of nu-metal with Korn being my top favourite band above them all. Metal was and still is a pretty cool gebre and all, but nu-metal felt more experimentive in terms of instrumentation, and the lyrical content is usually more personal and direct. So naturally, I felt like I could relate to lyrics expressing all shades of angst and anger, all the while headbanging the stress away. (In the air, not against solid objects, of course.)

So how in the hell did I miss out on Linkin Park when their music was ripe with the most authentic and direct lyrics possible?


The Egos of Elitists

When I was 14, I had a best friend who was a passionate metalhead and together we really enjoyed Korn and all the other nu-metal bands coming out on the scene at the time, like Limp Bizkit and System of a Down. Back then, and probably even now, nu-metal was a pretty niche genre. It was indeed popular, but still paled in comparison to pop and hip-hop which continues to dominate the charts even today.

So because of how we were in a small minority of people who loved this kind of music that others deemed as too loud and aggressive, we kind of felt special. Though at times it went a little too far as to denounce all other genres of music, especially if it was mainstream, and even going insofar as to denounce other metal bands if they weren’t heavy enough by our elitist standards.

Yeah, I cringe just writing about it right now.

Now I don’t think this former best friend of mine intentionally conspired to keep me from enjoying Linkin Park, but his elitist mentality sure as hell rubbed off on me and I ended up developing my own ego around music. And since I can’t remember with any certainty if he ever said anything against Linkin Park, I’m going to have to take full responsibility for shooting myself in the back and actively choosing not to like Linkin Park.

Especially since they were so popular, maybe too popular a really ignorant part of me wanted to maintain some sense of true individualism by going against what everybody else liked. Even if I did have moments of enjoying some of Linkin Park’s songs, I wanted to vehemently divide myself from other people in high school that loved them. Because I had this really strange notion that liking Korn made me cooler than all these other people who “fit in.” Being a misfit was like a badge of arbitrary honour, just as arbitrary as some non-existent force in the universe that made it impossible for my teenage self to simply like two rock bands,

Man, I’m really embarassed just writing this…

The Ego Will Always Resist What Can Make It Desist

In those aforementioned moments in which I enjoyed their songs, I particularly remember catching the music videos for Somewhere I Belong and Breaking the Habit on two separate occasions. On both occasions, I got lost in their lyrics and felt like I could relate to the desire to heal from pain both songs express. Not to mention, the intensity of Chester’s power vocals drove that feeling home for me.

They were strange experiences because of course the sonic signature of their music in the early days naturally resonated with me, but instead of having pure rage in their lyrics as I preferred in Korn at the time, some of Linkin Park’s lyrics also expressed a desire to actually be happy.

Which is something my teenage self didn’t want because being a cynical nihilist was just soooo much cooler.

Yeah, no, not really.

But I definitely thought that way at the time.

Listening to Linkin Park now as a 31 year old man as opposed to a 14 year old boy, I can see how much I could have loved them back then. They could have easily been included to my library of nu-metal with more of a push toward a positive direction rather than always focusing on the negative. And that’s not to say nu-metal is nothing but negativity, but when it came to a desire for positivity, I think Linkin Park took the cake.

Unfortunately, as a teen, I actively wanted to remain angry and resentful so I actively ignored anything that could have helped me out of my rut. I truly do feel like if I did listen to Linkin Park back then, I would be influenced to sort myself out earlier in life. Not just because of their lyrics, but also because of the friends I could have made if I had only let myself like them. The band, and the people.

I grew up with the strange notion that popular were all pricks (thanks American high school media), but as I opened up slowly throughout my teen years, I came to realize that some people were popular at school because they were legitimately cool people. And likewise, Linkin Park was so popular because they too were legit cool.

Of course they were!

While there are definitely other factors that affected my capacity to make and maintain friends in high school, I think choosing not to like Linkin Park was a huge component to it, along with what it represents: my close mindedness at the time. Along with my own ego gratification thinking that it was a wise mode of being to elevate myself above others by arbitrary means like music preference.

Which of course is why nowadays I try to keep an open mind to all genres.

I mean for crap’s sake, I’m in love with K-Pop these days!

Oh, if my 14 year old self only knew. Live and learn, right?

Novelty vs Nostalgia

So after getting the first three Linkin Albums a couple weeks ago, it has been an uphill battle in the way I’ve experienced their music. At first, it was a huge slap in the face to find that not only were their singles are incredible, but so are the album tracks. I can listen to them all from start to finish and not get bored for even a second because of how easy it is to listen to them, they really knew how to structure these songs and the song order for the full album experience.

At first it made regret how I wish I didn’t sleep on them after all these years, along with regretting how I closed myself to friends I could have had, or did have, but drifted from due to my elitist ego that had a lot to do with music preference among other things. And of course how their music was exactly what I needed back then, and I missed out.

But did I really miss out?

After all, I am listening to them now.

It all feels so new and refreshing to me even though so many others have already enjoyed their music long before I did.

After a whole lot of listening back and forth, I think I’m finally at a place where I can just enjoy the novelty of listening to Linkin Park and enjoying them as if they’re a new up and coming band only coming out today. Even if they have been around for quite a long time, in my mind new music is always welcome.

Besides, their music seems to have a timeless quality to it. Even if I heard all of their singles before, within the context of accompanying album tracks, they too still feel fresh and new to me because now I’m finally deliberately listening to them and enjoying them fully with high quality headphones and many many repetitions.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get into any of their other albums after Minutes to Midnight, but whatever the case may be, and as it stands now, I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of Minutes to Minutes to Midnight along with Hybrid Theory and Meteora for what I feel is going to be a really really long time.

Who knew letting go of my egoic illusions could reap such great benefits?

 

The Role of Sympathetic Villains

They’ve been around for as long as stories have existed; bad guys who are just sad guys taking their anger out onto the world.

Now while it’s easy to write off villains, especially stock villains as modes of being to be avoided, what I don’t hear often is how their malice and/or ignorance can very well mirror our own. We are so used to trying to identify with the clearly identifiable hero of a story and live vicariously through their experiences in standing up for what they believe in and triumphing over evil.

So I have a suggestion: next time you consume a story, try rooting for the villain as if it’s you. Because let’s face it, no one’s perfect and we all make mistakes. And while it’s really really easy to say “I would never behave like that,” in regards to whatever evil deed a character enacts, I think the true purpose of sympathetic villains is to have us think “I could have been like that.” Or even better. “I could be like that.”

Obviously, not in a way in which you would want to be blowing up buildings or drowning puppies, but just the simple admission that you have some malice in you, whether large and aching to burst out in a fit of rage, or benign like a tiny flicker in a well lit lightbulb–we are susceptible to negative emotions, thus the possibility of thinking some negative thoughts to go along with those emotions. Some of those thoughts can include wanting to harm others or yourself.

There’s a scene in Daredevil where he and The Punisher have an argument over ethics. Daredevil doesn’t kill or wants to kill any criminals because of his moral code. The Punisher on the other hand has no problem killing them and thinks he’s justified since it does seem to end crime in Hell’s Kitchen, if not only temporarily until even bigger stronger villains come on the rise and challenge the established order.

One of my favourite lines of all time comes from The Punisher when he tells Daredevil, “you’re just a bad day away from becoming me.”

And I think that says a lot for all of a us. Please don’t mistake this as me acting like a priest telling you that you are all full of sin and should repent. All I’m saying is that it’s important to recognize your own capacity for malice, whether you’ve acted it out or not, and view villains as the expression of that malice.

You know you can empathize and sympathize with some of their reasons for causing mayhem, so empathize and sympathize with yourself whenever you catch yourself wanting to run those bad drivers off the road that cut you off or honk their blaring horns at you for tiny little mistakes. How you want to shove your boss’s face through the paper shredder because they’ve gotten your case about your work ethic or how your break lasted two or three more minutes longer than you’re allotted.

Silly examples, of course, but you know what I mean.

Within each and every one of us resides good and evil, whether you like it or not. Some things we do to hurt each other can either be due to ignorance or pure malice. Whatever the case is, sympathetic villains serve as a template of not only how not to be, but also how we bad we could be, just as much as heroes serve as templates of how good we could be.

So give it a shot; next time you consume a story see yourself through the villain’s eyes and see what it does for you. How does it make you feel? What steps have you taken, or should start taking, to avoid being vanquised by those who stand for virtue? Not to say that you don’t, but more often than not, there are dark motivations for good deeds. Something we can discuss another time, but for now let me know what you think and how the little experiment goes!

Truncated Trifecta of Tribulations

A few weeks ago I shared my life long experiences with depression, as well as the resulting lessons I learned in dealing with a recent depression spell I suffered under.

The original posts cut deep and it only made sense to transcend my usual desire to keep articles under 1000 words for concise and bite sized comsupmion. Now while I do urge you to check out the full Trifecta of Tribulations series, I decided to see if I can put these lessons into their simplest form possible.

My personal story as to how I came to these Top 3 Lessons help flesh them all out more, but for a quick and bite sized experience, here they are in their most concise form:

1. Share to Shed Your Shadow Side

We all have dark parts lingering within us. Parts of us, for better or for worse, that sometimes urge us to behave in ways that go against our values. Instead of trying to suppress these dark thoughts–only to make them boil up and burn you over worse in the future–trying sharing them with people you trust.

Maybe you have a life coach or therapist, family members you’re close with, and/or some very trustworthy friends. Whoever you have in your life who won’t judge you or ostracize you for voicing your vulnerabilities, feel free to share your shadow side with them. Make it clear that these dark thoughts you have are just that; thoughts. You may be afraid that they end up fearing you, but if they are trustworthy people, they’ll end up understanding you better.

There’s always that horrible thing you want to do to someone who has wronged you in the past, or that vicious verbal assault you know you can unleash on someone who you think “deserves it.” Unless you actually act these things out, don’t feel ashamed of yourself, just notice it’s there and pay attention to what’s driving it. You can usually then find more healthy ways to express your frustrations with the people you find yourself in conflict with.

2. The 60:40 Principle

Optimism is a helpful tool in keeping yourself hopeful and excited to live in the world. It’s a mindset required in order to achieve the things we want and connect with the people we want to connect with. However, an excess of it can make you naive and susceptible for possible abuse and maniuplation. Not to mention, the higher your set your hopes, the harder the fall if things don’t go as planned.

So what’s the solution? Pessimism?

Well, Pessimism is a little more “realistic” after all, and is so much easier to convince yourself of. Yes, life is unfair, it’s full of suffering, and we might not get everything we want before we die. This much is indeed true, but if Pessimism is taken on as a primary mindset in which to live with, it can be quite dibilitating. We’re only human and it’s only natural for us to need things and need other people to survive, but too much Pessimism can cause you to suffer needlessly, and it makes little to no sense to inflict any more suffering on yourself that life is bound to give you anyway.

Life is about balance between the two mindsets. Always try to operate from 60:40 Optimism over Pessimism, or 60:40 Pesssimism over Optimism. Why not 50:50? Because you’ll logically and usually be feeling one mindset stronger than the other, depending on how your life is going. The trick is to not turn it into 70:30 of either mindset over the other. Hope and dream, but be cautious so that you’re not too attached to a certain outcome. Feel your negative emotions and experiences, but remain hopeful life can get better.

3. You Create Your Own Reality

Now while it’s obvious you can’t delude yourself into thinking everything is fine when your family is at war with each other, your friends are ditching you, and your job is sucking your soul dry–despite of what you’re experiencing in life, it’s still your responsibility to handle it in the best way that gives you the least amount of uneccessary suffering.

Taking The 60:40 Principle in account, you must ask yourself, “if my life is Hell right now, what did I do to make it this way?” And if you find that an undesirable circumstance is, indeed, your fault, don’t fall into the temptation of beating yourself up over it. Ask yourself then, “what can I do to make it better?” And, “how can I make sure I don’t suffer any more than I have to?”

Unless your brain chemistry is misaligned beyond repair by a serious disease that makes it visible, chances are that you actually have more control over your mind than you think. Over time, it just gets easier to buy into everything our mind tells us. Most of the thoughts we have are uncontrollable and we had little to no choice in getting them stuck in our heads due to our unique set of environments and childhoods. So relcaim your mind and remembering the silent observer that is merely aware of such thoughts, and become its ally, so that in turn, your mind can be yours once again.

Trifecta of Tribulations 3: Creating My Own Reality

Welcome to the final stretch of the Trifecta of Tribulations!

In Part 1, I began by sharing my Ralph Wiggum dream that lead me to engaging my Shadow Side. This in turn taught me how to have a healthy detachment from desired outcomes so that I don’t stake my entire identity and existence on external outcomes.

And then in Part 2, I shared how the swinging pendulum of Optimism and Optimism can be balanced when you adapt the 60:40 Principle.

Now we top off the Trifecta of Tribulations by going back to my roots and paying infinite homage to Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.


Welcome, to the Present Moment

I have read more than a fair share of personal development books over the years, and while I have gleaned a ton of value from all of them, nothing will ever be as powerful as The Power of Now.

When I first read this book 10 years ago, it actually did change my life in numerous ways and on numerous occasions upon several re-reads. The idea of being mindful of present moment isn’t anything new, but having read The Power of Now at the right times, Eckhart Tolle’s delivery of this important message never ever fails to transform my life.

For the unitiated, being present simply means paying full attention to the present moment without having to label your environment or experience, and of course disallowing the internal dialogue in your head from having any power over you. You can even go insofar as to not even think at all like an intentional meditation at any time and anywhere you choose.

While Awaken the Giant Within opened me up to the idea of positive thinking, The Power of Now taught me to stop my excess thinking, which is often the source of many life’s problems. We tend to view the world through a specific lens and the world then manifests itself in ways that embellish what we tend to focus on.

Focus on the negative, and all you experience is the negative despite having good things pass you right by. But then of course you can also be too positive as to ignore that life brings with it some inherent suffering, hence my 60:40 Principle. Know which mode of being to focus on while acknowledging that the other polarity continues to run in the background so that they don’t sneak up on you and overwhelm you.

Kind of like what it did to me when my Pessimism returned after many many years of trying to supress it. I fell into the habit of trying to stay positive all the time and trying to ignore that I would have to deal with any amount of emotional and personal hardship that I am again reminded of being neccessary for human existence.

We are always in a constant flux of becoming more or less than what we can be. Being is becoming.

Shaping Your Reality

When I was having my trip to the Underworld last month, a lot of it was due to my own excess thinking. I obsessed over when I would ever get published and often got upset over my lacking comprehension of the Korean language. I was so focused on getting over there that I was closed off to appreciating the here and now, which is the only time frame that ever truly exists. The past was once the present, the future will later then become the present, and no matter which point in time you think about, you do it all right here. Right now.

I had my doubts over whether or not my Optimism was bullshit or not, but what I think the real issue was was the ungratefulness I had for where I was in life. Sure, we can never be truly satisfied as there is always more to grow towards, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take stock of where you are and appreciate it.

If I had only taken my own advice and appreciated how far I’ve come, I probably could have avoided all the emotional pain I felt the past month. But I digress, I feel that it was entirely necessary to experience these issues to test my values and see what I would be without them. Simply put, it’s quite scary to consider, and I am now thankful that optimism and happiness are a ton of hard work to achieve, else it would not feel as valuable since the satisfaction is in earning these things.

Beyond being happy about having gone so far with my novel and my Korean studies, I forgot the most simple thing to do in moments of distress: breathe and take stock of the present moment. Nevermind my achievements thus far and what I have yet to achieve, the true happiness I was seeking was available at any time if I had taken a moment as I do now, to just breathe and be present.

In the end, I have always been in control of my moods and thoughts.

Not all of them are going to be pleasant, and not all of them will be easy to ignore, but what’s important is how I handle them.

So whether I’ve been clinically depressed or not,  it has ultimately always been my choice whether or not I bought into such an ancient suspicion of my mental limitations.

Being Authentic

Even within this post I am starting to write simpler headings and hopefully in a simpler language. Amidst all this turmoil I realized how much I’ve relied on my intellect to cover up how stupid I really am in different aspects of life, as well as using my intellect to either build myself up or tear myself down.

Whichever way I’ve gone, I’ve realized that both the Optimism and Pessimism are authentic expressions of my being. They only times either have them have been bullshit was when I’ve engaged them in excess extremes without taking in account of their polar opposites.

When my friend was sharing his problems with me, or whenever my study buddy expressed some self doubt in her English skills, as well as some hesitance toward adding a romantic aspect to our relationship (this particular relationship has ended, but that’s a story for another time). My excess optimism in these relationships caused friction because I was dedicated to changing their personal experiences to fit my own selfish needs. I wanted them to stop having their negative emotions and wanted to be that annoying ray of sunshine to brighten up their day.

And likewise when another friend of mine gave me the space to let my Shadow Side spit its venom out, I noticed a moment where being Pessimistic became exhausting because I was trying to deliberate and prolong it beyond what felt natural and neccessary.

Then I had this moment of laughing at myself because of how “quickly” and “anti-climacticaly” I had escaped the Underworld. I was simply reminded of how much of a master of my own reality I have been, even though the start of this bout of depression started from questioning my own power over it.

Now I may be wrong in asserting this, especially if there are people out there who do suffer from severe psychological issues that require treatment, but I do think we are the ultimate gods of our own realities. This doesn’t mean delude yourself into thinking that everything is alright when it’s not, but I do mean staying calm and as stoic as possible when observing the situations in our lives that cause us distress.

If you’re happy, take it all in stride because it is but a fleeting emotion to behold.

If you’re sad or angry, take that all in stride too because it is also a fleeting emotion.

Whichever myraid of emotions you ever experience, be honest about your experience, no matter how irrational it may seem.

Give yourself the time and space to express these raw emotions until they lose their grip on your mind and body. Once again, I cannot stress enough how helpful journaling is, especially if you can’t afford therapy or are not yet ready for it. Sometimes we just need the permission to be wrong. There’s always time to step out of that funk and observe them from the outside as I am now doing in regars to the month I’ve had. On a daily basis:

I’ve fallen in and out of love with a woman.

I’ve fought and toiled with a friend.

I’ve contended with and confided in myself.

And in the end, no matter what has happened, I have always been in control of my own experience. While I do need to accept that I can’t control certain circumstances, most especially the way others feel, I am now reminded of something I have forgotten lately: I cannot hold energy. Its natural state is to move and to change forms. And that can only be possible by being authentic with how I feel and constantly re-learning to regain my composure after I’ve allowed all aspects of myself to express themselves.



The Constant Ascenscion

I’ve accepted my lot in life.

I have more privileges and advantages than others.

I also have more limitations and disdvantages than others.

Life is going to be difficult because we are in a constant flux of death and rebirth. It’s okay to feel a little sad and crazy at times because being happy and content will always slip through your fingers like quicksand. While pleasant and enjoyable when they come into our field of experience, they are not worthwhile goals in the end.

Admirable and worthwhile goals transcend mere pleasure. They are the goals that adding meaning to your life and are good in ways that trickle through your interactions with the world. Being in the service of others while also feeding your own sense of fulfillment  toward your purpose is how to live a truly meaningful life.

That is all for the Trifecta of Tribulations. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and gleaned some value from it. If you’ve read each entry since the first one, my most sincerest thanks goes to you. I know I’ve started to surpass my usual word count with these posts, there was just so much I needed to share and express to bring all this into the proper context.

For those who were looking for a more bite sized and actionable version of what I was trying to teach, I will consider writing a condensed version of all this where the focus is more on the action side of things rather than the personal experiences that taught me all this.

In any case, thank you and have a great day! Be sure to leave a comment and follow Your Write to Live for more self-knowledge on Meaningful Mondays and writings tips on Workshop Wednesdays!