K-pop Music Pop Culture

Mirani returns with her single “Daisy” and surprises fans with a new sound

Just as spring arrived this year, hip-hop artist Mirani gave fans a fresh single, “Daisy,” to mark the start of a new season in her career.

Though softer in sound and slower in pace than her previous singles, “Daisy” continues to showcase Mirani’s ability to pen thoughtful lyrics with roots deep in meaning and metaphor. Spring is often considered a welcome reprieve from the dark days of winter. While “Daisy” does capture this sentiment, Mirani’s lyrics also include moments in which she questions if she’s deserving of the relief spring can provide.

“Spring has been a complicated symbol for me to deal with, but I think I finally overcame this fear,” Mirani said in an exclusive interview with The Tempest.

Mirani noted she typically finds inspiration for her music in movies and TV dramas. “Writing down these emotions [felt by the characters] helps me come up with my song lyrics,” she shared. However, the emotional journey in “Daisy” is more personal. In fact, the lyrics explore a moment Mirani experienced while on the set for an advertisement. One of the staff presented her with a “beautiful flower,” which she felt she hadn’t earned yet since she had only just finished filming Show Me The Money 9.

“I felt really awkward about the situation. I found myself asking, from the force of habit, ‘Do I deserve this flower?’” Mirani recalled. “Then I realized I’m not really used to these good and ‘fragrant’ things yet, and I tried to express this thought in the song.”

For those of us trying to turn our dreams into a reality, Mirani’s experience is incredibly relatable. It’s easy to feel imposter syndrome once we start to catch even a whiff of success. It’s also easy to compare ourselves to others, to be “jealous of the flowers blooming” and to wish “spring would hurry and pass.” But just like Mirani realizes in “Daisy,” it’s okay to acknowledge when our spring has come.

I asked Mirani if she had any words of encouragement for those of us pursuing our dreams, especially those who are following in her footsteps in the music industry. She said: “I know how hard it is to create something. I believe you are the best and doing just fine no matter what, so keep going. Rooting for you!”

While Mirani’s lyrics are personal to her experience, she wanted the music video to be applicable to anyone. She worked with the director to add more fun into each shot to keep viewers curious and leave the meaning up to interpretation.

“I wanted people to watch it again and see many different factors,” Mirani told me. “I think the outcome turned out great.”

“Daisy” also offered Mirani the opportunity to work with pH-1 again. “I think my voice matches great with pH-1’s voice tone, so I was excited to collaborate with [him] once again,” she said. The two first worked together on Show Me The Money 9, creating hits like “Achoo” and “VVS,” which both peaked in the top five of the Gaon Digital Chart. “VVS” also won Hip-Hop Track of the Year at the 2021 Korean Hip-Hop Awards. A month before her latest single dropped, Mirani signed with AREA, a new label by GroovyRoom in partnership with Jay Park’s H1GHER MUSIC—an exciting continuation of her work with the producer duo that she first started on Show Me The Money 9.

When I asked why she wanted to become an artist, Mirani revealed it was her brother who first introduced her to hip-hop music. She then went on to join a hip-hop circle in college, where she discovered her passion for performing. “I really enjoyed the first moment on the stage, and I decided to be a rapper since then.” Fast forward to April of 2020, Mirani debuted independently with her single “Detective,” joining a growing number of women hip-hop artists and rappers in South Korea.

“I know there aren’t that many recognized female rappers within the scene. And I’ve been deeply thinking about how I can also be part of those influential female rappers,” Mirani expressed to me.

One way Mirani is hoping to add to the genre is by experimenting with her own sound and lyrics. “I’m thinking of working on more diverse genres and themes,” she revealed. Whether this is a hint for a possible upcoming album or her music in general, she wouldn’t say. She did, however, confirm, “This is just the beginning for me.”

This might be just the beginning for Mirani, but with each single, she’s proven to be a fresh, new voice worth keeping an ear out for. Her catchy melodies and contemplative lyrics define her style as simply her own, with “Daisy” adding another layer. As she continues to play with her sound, I can’t wait to see what she puts out next.

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Here’s everything you missed from the Oscars 2021 gala

Did you miss this year’s Oscars? Nothing to fear! We have summed up all the best moments.

 The Academy Awards are usually held in the Dolby Theatre and seat almost 3400 attendees. The event is filled with a jam-packed program that includes star-studded skits and sketches, epic montages, and elaborate in-person musical performances – all with a comedian serving as host. This year’s affair, held on Sunday 25 April 2021 was noticeably more intimate.

For the 2021 gala, all of the theatrics were swapped out for a more subdued evening. Held at the Union Station, the 170 attendees were seated around tables, in the vein of the first few Oscar ceremonies. Musical performances were recorded and aired before the telecast. Skits were paired down to Lil Rel Howery quizzing Andra Day, Daniel Kaluuya, and Glenn Close, who showed off her music knowledge and dance skills. There was no host for the third time in a row, but celebrity presenters galore with Oscar-winning actress and director Regina King kicking off the evening that proved just as historic as the times it was held in.

Here is a list of our breakthroughs and firsts of the night:

1. Daniel Kaluuya makes Britain and Uganda Proud

Oscar winner, Daniel Kaluuya
[Image Description: Daniel Kaluuya poses backstage after his historic Oscar win.] Via The Academy.
As an awards season favorite winning Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA awards, it was no surprise when Daniel Kaluuya took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor at this year’s Academy Awards. His performance as Fred Hampton, deputy chairman of the Black Panther Party was a standout and his acceptance speech proved to be just as memorable.

In an embarrassing yet hilarious moment, he excitedly expressed his appreciation for life and commented, “My mum and my dad… they had sex and now I’m here!” Before that, he made sure to thank “family, friends and everyone I love from Londontown to Kampala” as he became the first Black British actor and the first actor of Ugandan descent to win an Oscar.

2. Best Actor category was the last award presented

This year's Best Actor nominees
[Image Description: The nominees in the Best Actor category at this year’s Academy Awards. From left to right: Riz Ahmed, Steven Yeun, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman and Chadwick Boseman.] Via Variety.
The Best Picture category is often the pièce de résistance of the night and the last award presented. In a rare turn of events and for the first time, the Best Actor category was the last award presented of the evening.

This definitely fueled rumors that the Academy was going to posthumously honor Chadwick Boseman for his final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be for the actor, with the honor of going to Sir Anthony Hopkins for his role in The Father.

3. Honoring the elders

Oscar-winning costume designer, Ann Roth, at work on the set of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
[Image Description: Oscar-winning costume designer Ann Roth, adjusting actress Taylour Paige on the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom] Via IMDB.
As previously mentioned Sir Anthon Hopkins won the Best Actor statue and became the oldest person to win in the Best Actor category at 83 years old. Proving age is just a number, Ann Roth tied in becoming the oldest woman to win an Oscar at the age of 89 for her costume design work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

4. South Africa’s first documentary win

The poster to My Octopus Teacher available on Netflix
[Image Description: Poster of My Octopus Teacher.] Via Netflix.
After winning a slew of awards during award season, My Octopus Teacher was able to wrap its tentacles around the Best Documentary Feature Oscar at the 93rd Academy Awards. In doing so, My Octopus Teacher became the first South African nature documentary to become a Netflix Original and to win an Oscar.

5. South Korea makes history again

Best Supporting Actress winner Yuh-Jung Youn
[Image Description: Yuh-Jung Youn speaking as she accepted her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress..] Via E!
Continuing South Korea’s winning streak after Parasite, Youn Yuh-Jung became the first Korean actor to win an Oscar for her portrayal as the matriarch in one of the 2020s most talked about films, Minari. Youn Yuh-Jung won in the Best Supporting Actress category.

6. First woman of color to win Best Director

Chloe Zhao is the first woman of color to win for Best Director
[Image Description: Director Chloe Zhao accepting the Best Director Oscar for her work on Nomadland.] Via the Academy.
Chloe Zhao graciously accepted the award for Best Director for Nomadland and became the second woman to win the award after Katheryn Bigelow in 2009. She also became the first woman of color and the first Asian, specifically, Chinese woman to win in that category.

7. First time is H.E.R. lucky charm

Best Original Song winner H.E.R.
[Image Description: H.E.R.’s holding her Oscar.] Via Variety.
R&B singer H.E.R. is used to receiving music awards and parlayed that into film when she was not only nominated but won for Best Original Song on the first try. She won for the anthem, Fight for You, featured in the film, Judas and The Black Messiah. This victory also made her first black woman win in this category since Irene Cara in 1983.

8. Black women finally honored in makeup and hair

The first black women to win an Oscar for Best Hair and Makeup
[Image Description: Mia Neal (left), Jamika Wilson (center), and Sergio Lopez-Riviera (right) celebrating their historic win.] Via Variety.
Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson made history on Sunday night after becoming the first black women to receive a nomination and subsequent win in the Best Hair and Makeup category. Their amazing work alongside Sergio Lopez Riviera can be seen in Viola Davis’ transformation in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

9. First animated film to feature a Black character in the lead.

The offical poster for Pixar's laestest animated film, Soul
[Image Description: Poster for Pixar’s ‘Soul’.] Via IMDB.
“It’s been way too long, and I don’t know that we really have a good answer. We’re always looking to reflect as much of the world out there as we can, and we’re happy that it’s finally happened — that we are representing a part of the population that just hasn’t had as much voice in our films up to now.” director Pete Docter said of the why it took so long for Pixar to have a film with a black lead character.

The film is Soul and it follows the journey of Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a music teacher who after an accident reverts back to his soul state. Proving that representation is necessary, the film went on to win Best Animated Feature.

10. All that glitters is not gold but Emerald

Director, writer, actress and producer Emerald Fennell wins at the Oscars
[Image Description: Triple Oscar nominee, Emerald Fennell celebrating her first Oscar win for Best Orignal Screenplay.] Via The Academy.

Having appeared on Call The Midwife and the latest season of The Crown, it is Emerald Fennell’s behind-the-scenes work that has garnered all the Academy’s attention.

Fennell’s feature film debut, Promising Young Woman, showcased Fennell’s talent as she wrote, produced, directed, and even made a cameo in the film. She was nominated in three categories, Best Picture (as a producer), Best Director (becoming the first British woman to receive the recognition), and Best Original Screenplay, which she won. She became the first woman to win in that category since 2008.

While a lot of firsts occurred at the 93rd Academy Awards, these firsts will continue to be seen as groundbreaking until the under-represented are provided equity, in front of and behind the cameras. There is still more ground to be broken in terms of diversity and inclusivity, not only in film but within the academy. Let’s hope that the Academy can continue this upward trajectory in years to come!

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Youn Yuh-Jung is our favorite grandma, and we love to see her win a SAG Award

Youn Yuh-Jung accepted her SAG (Screen Actors Guild) award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role with tears in her eyes and careful care of her articulation in English. There was a moment in which she consulted someone off-screen to check her pronunciation of “supporting actress”, taking due diligence with her words even in a moment of fervor. Fans on Twitter call her their queen and relate with her fellow nominee fangirls. It’s heart-warming to see positive Asian representation in mainstream media – something that’s sorely lacking.

Her role in Minari has welcomed her to the Western sphere of cinema. She stars as the doting yet vulgar grandmother Soon-ja who moves to the US to help raise the children of her immigrant son. To much of her grandson’s chagrin, Soon-ja brings a carefree spirit to a house that is injured by poverty and marital discourse.

For much of the movie, she holds as the emotional tether for the children of the household, something that is lost on the struggling family. She reminded me much of my own grandmother who provided me a safe bubble from the afflictions of my own parents and I’m sure that this empathy is universal for many that were born here too. Throughout Minari, Youn’s performance felt and stayed raw and heartfelt, as she channeled her own immigrant experience to America during the ’70s. 

But who is this veteran Korean actress that has managed to capture every international heart? 

Youn Yuh-Jung in a floral sweater. Her hands are wrapped around her as she looks up to the sky, eyes closed. She looks deep in thought.
Image Description: Youn Yuh-Jung in a floral sweater. Her hands are wrapped around her as she looks up to the sky, eyes closed. She looks deep in thought. Credit: Philip Montgomery for New York Magazine.

Youn Yuh-Jung didn’t think of acting until the start of her term at Hanyang University in Seoul. She was dejected after receiving her low college-entrance exam scores barring her from any elite colleges so when a TV director suggested she try out for an open talent audition, she went ahead with it. 

She debuted on the screen with the drama series Mister Gong in 1967. Though she received a TBC Drama Award for Best New Talent, it was not until 1971 that she gained critical acclaim. Her role as a paramour femme fatale in the film Woman of Fire awarded her three  Best Actress awards from the Stiges Film Festival, Grand Bell Awards, and Blue Dragon Film Awards, the latter the Korean equivalent to the Oscars. Awards aren’t enough to quantify the impact of her role, however. 

To this day, sexism is deeply ingrained in almost all pillars of respect due to historically Confucianist ideals. Within Confucianism, there are the Five Relationships that symbolize the basic links that must exist for harmony: ruler and ruled – be it father and son, husband and wife, elder brother and younger brother, and friend and friend. The kinship between the husband and wife particularly contains increments of patriarchal values when considering the adjacent values of filial piety. A woman was expected to show only love and respect to her husband with their subservience. 

 Yuh-Jung’s role as a young woman grappling with the moral complexities of marriage, poverty, and lust, was unbeknownst to the big screen; women were simply never characterized so humanly, at least in popular films and TV shows. 

From then on, Yuh-Jung shot to popularity but at its zenith, she married and disappeared to the US, following her husband where he attended college. During her time, she gave birth to two sons but moved back to South Korea with them after divorcing her husband. 

Youn Yuh-Jung (left) received critical acclaim as a paramour femme fatale in "Woman of Fire."
Image Description: Youn Yuh-Jung (left) received critical acclaim as a paramour femme fatale in “Woman of Fire.” Credit: HanCinema. 

Yuh-Jung was a 40-year old divorcee returning to a country that rarely turned on its screens to middle-aged actors starring in anything but a parent role. She had no chance but to labor at any opportunity that came her way; to act was to work and support her family. To date, Yuh-Jung has starred in more than 30 films and 70 series. 

Eventually, Yuh-Jung was able to relinquish the chains of financial responsibility for her two boys. This finally allowed her the possibility of choice, the ability to choose what kind of roles she’d take on. At an age where women retire, Yuh-Jung looked frequently to amateur directors who, like Woman of Fire, weren’t scared to play around with the boundaries of the status quo. In The Bacchus Lady, for example, Yuh-Jung plays an aging prostitute who grapples with her role in a modernizing world. 

Yuh-Jung is, however, not simply just an actor but an adored public figure. Korea’s bustling entertainment TV business gives way for many actors to reveal their true personalities and personas. Youn’s Kitchen stars Yuh-Jung leading an ensemble of other actors in functioning a cafe in a foreign country. The show has not only gained general popularity with another show called Youn’s Stay in production but has cultivated a public image for Yuh-Jung. One in which many are able to watch her calm and pensive attitude infused with a dry wit that only age could give you. 

Now, she is an Oscar-nominated actress and holds a SAG award. There doesn’t seem to be any more that this actress can do yet for Youn Yuh-Jung, there’s no telling what’s next. Western cinema needs more Asian representation, and I am so excited to see Youn Yuh-Jung get the praise that she deserves. 

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The Breakdown Gender Beauty Inequality

The destructive side of Korean beauty standards

The Breakdown is a Tempest exclusive series that attempts to tackle issues, concepts, terms, and histories that are relevant and intrinsic to conversations about social justice. This is our version of a 101 on Social Justice, with a grassroot level approach that hopes to simplify and make political and cultural conversations accessible in a global level.

I recently watched the newest installment of K-Pop group BTS’ docu-film, Break The Silence: The Movie, which included documentary-styled interviews of BTS members and a closer glimpse into their lives during their 2019 Love Yourself: Speak Yourself World Tour. 

One of the members of BTS, RM, gave a speech to a crowd of fans during their tour and stated how he viewed his self-worth as less because of his dark skin. This was a striking statement to me because he is only slightly tan in complexion. Yet, his slightly tanned skin was enough to make him feel unworthy. This is a clear testament to the rigid Korean beauty standards that many celebrities and Korean society at large are forced to adhere to. In fact, it is so common for Korean artists to undergo plastic surgery before their debut if their natural looks do not fit into the Korean beauty model. 

Porcelain, pale skin. Double lid eyelids with larger eyes. V-shaped jaw. Slim figure. This is Korean beauty standards. But where did it come from? The preference for fair skin can be traced back to it being a symbol of status. South Korea was an agricultural society, where privileged classes didn’t work under the sun and therefore had lighter complexions. Due to this divisive and classist view, darker-skinned Koreans are often associated with being a lower class. K-Pop stars reinforce these narrow beauty standards that many South Koreans idolize. Watch a K-Drama or a K-Pop music video and you are sure to see the images of fair-skinned, slim, double-eyelid, large-eyed entertainers. It is even common practice to bring photos of favorite K-Pop idols to plastic surgery consultations. 

South Korea’s strict and sometimes concerning beauty standards are often attributed to lookism, a term defined as discrimination or prejudice based on physical appearance that usually doesn’t fit societal notions of beauty. The societal pressure to look beautiful and ‘above normal’ fosters an environment that can be dangerous, both physically and mentally. In a 2017 study, it was found that in South Korean adults, a higher weight status often lead to more depressive symptoms. The reasons for these results were related to concerns about being overweight and fearing body-related stigma. The oppressive standards of beauty and appearance leave many with feelings of inadequacy. Even in the case of South Korean celebrities like RM. 

South Korea has the world’s largest number of plastic surgery procedures per capita. Thousands of South Koreans undergo double-eyelid surgery, and procedures to slim their face and noses. It is so common, that many teenagers are gifted cosmetic surgery as graduation gifts. Interestingly, plastic surgery itself doesn’t have a stigma attached to it in South Korea, unlike in many other countries. It is merely seen as an extension of beauty treatments. This only highlights an obsession with appearance which can have detrimental effects on notions of self-esteem and self-worth. 

A further example of the severity of South Korean beauty standards is the 50 kg myth, which is an ideal created by the media that shames women who weigh over 50 kgs. This ideal is perpetuated by idolized Korean celebrities who openly discuss weighing 40-something kgs. The media glorifies under-weight celebrities who subject themselves to unhealthy and often dangerous diets, such as the paper-cup diet. In addition to this, most Korean clothing stores carry a “free size” which is essentially a “one size fits all”. Of course, this one size is always a small.

Media consumption is what impacts Korean beauty standards the most. Images from advertisements, movies, television, magazines to music videos perpetuate the model of Korean beauty. Celebrities undergo cosmetic surgery and disturbing diets to maintain the narrow Korean beauty standard. When you are constantly bombarded with a very specific look and told this is what is considered beautiful and acceptable, it creates the desire to belong. You then transform yourself into a person that fits the societal notions of beauty. These restrictive ideals of beauty can become a choke-hold that leads to self-hatred, depression, and eating disorders.

However, there is a growing feminist movement in South Korea where women are rejecting the rigid beauty standards imposed onto them by society. Many women shave their long hair. go make-up free, and post it on social media as part of the “escape the corset” movement. The movement brings freedom to South Korean women who have been constrained by a patriarchal society and the impossible standard of flawless beauty. In doing so, they are able to address the unequal power structures in South Korea which oppress women.

South Korean obsession with a certain ideal of beauty and appearance, looks concerning from foreign eyes. Although, many South Koreans do not see the fuss, especially if it benefits them. If you fit Korean beauty standards, it lands you jobs and success. However, I can’t imagine the immense pressures to appear flawless, slim, pale, and above normal constantly. Lookism leads to a highly-critical view of self and others around you. As normalized as it is, what happens to those who can’t afford cosmetic procedures? Are all the procedures, diets, and beauty treatments ever enough? Or is it a continuous hyper-critical view of yourself and your perceived flaws, as well as a constant need to improve to fit the societal ideal of beauty? These are concerning thoughts, however the brewing pushback from the “escape the corset” movement is a necessary step towards self-acceptance and powerful resistance that demonstrates hope for change.

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Money Now + Beyond

Will there be no use of paper money in a post-COVID world?

Paper money is transferred from hand to hand multiple times every day. It is a norm to pay for items with cash – something no one has even second-guessed. The COVID-19 crisis, however, has led to unprecedented public concerns about viral transmission via cash.  With the global economy being on track for its sharpest, and by far quickest, slowdown since the Great Depression almost 100 years ago, this call for a cashless society is a daunting one.

When the World Health Organization released a statement recommending that people turn to cashless transactions to fight the spread of Covid-19, several governments and retailers across the world took action.

In China, thousands of banknotes were destroyed or disinfected to eliminate the spread of the virus. South Korea followed suit, and in the US, the Federal Reserve has started storing banknotes that have come in from Asia before recirculating them back into the economy.

Others have taken a more peculiar route. Rumours continue that some Canadians have been putting banknotes into washing machines to rid them of the virus, taking advantage of the fact that their ‘paper’ money is made of plastic. This puts a new spin to money laundering, and yes, pun intended.

As drastic and creative as some of these methods may seem, it remains a matter of fact that this pandemic is driving the adoption of contactless payments in a major way. France is even moving ahead with trials for a digital euro. It is unlikely that it will end the use of cash everywhere, but it may be enough to push many markets towards a new cashless paradigm.

Digital payments seem to be the clear winner coming out of this crisis. Once born out of convenience, contactless digital payments are now a necessity for many in such a time. Luckily, we live in a time where much of the infrastructure required to complete an online purchase is already in place. This may not have been possible even 10 years ago.

With governments urging citizens to stay at home (and in some cases making it illegal to leave), there has been an explosion in the use of online shopping and delivery systems. Businesses like PayPal, Amazon, and Instacart have seen huge spikes in demand.

In addition to this, even if one were to physically visit a store, COVID-19 has given people enough reason to be wary of public pay terminals. Digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay allow a payment to be made without even touching a card to a terminal or entering a PIN.  As a result, cash managers and payments experts agree that the number of digital transactions, compared to physical cash transactions, will soar as more and more countries go into lockdown.

There are some benefits to this new digital model of payment. Some argue that it will boost financial inclusion, as more individuals are able to open bank accounts online and transact digitally without ever having to enter a physical bank branch. Another benefit is that digital payments are a lot cheaper to process than their cash equivalent, as some countries, such as India, spend quite a bit on printing, storing, and distributing cash.

Even with these benefits in mind, the question of if companies will be able to cope with the increase in online scammers and hackers that comes along with it is an intimidating one.

It is a sad truth, but any crisis presents opportunities for criminals and, with the radical change occurring at a high speed during this pandemic, new loopholes are opening for online scammers and hackers. COVID-19 is a backdoor of sorts for fraud to flourish, with common scams including impersonating public health authorities or other government organizations and demanding payment from the targets.

In response, companies and financial institutions need to make significant investments to improve fraud prevention and detection. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can both make a significant difference in this area, such as with software company Kount’s AI-driven online fraud prevention, businesses can prevent emerging fraud, accept more good orders, reduce manual reviews, and control business outcomes.

COVID-19 has sent the global economy into a tailspin, with the call for cashless payment methods being one of many new changes to society. While a post-pandemic world may be more digitally-inclined, it is difficult to say that physical money will be done away with altogether. In the current circumstances, however, the trade of cash is a propellant for the virus so try to avoid it for now.

Tech Money Now + Beyond

Here’s how Bitcoin went from the next big thing to a textbook failure

From Pokemon Go in summer 2016 to fidget spinners in spring 2017, the world always seems to be going after a new fad before these fads fall. In 2017, this fad seemed to be Bitcoin, which rarely seems to be heard of in mainstream media nowadays.

Let’s first understand why so many people were getting nerdy about bitcoin.

Bitcoin, at its simplest, is cryptocurrency, a form of electronic cash. While the amount of online stores that accept Bitcoin as payment is not super big at the moment, sites CheapAir and Etsy, if the creator allows it, do. If you want to see which stores near you accept Bitcoin, you can use the website coin map to see.

According to Rebecca Grant at VentureBeat, Bitcoins are characterized by their placement in a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions. This is also known as the Blockchain, which is a public record of transactions.

Bitcoins are generated by using an open-source computer program to solve complex math problems in a process known as mining,” Grant wrote. “Each Bitcoin is defined by a public address and a private key, which are long strings of numbers and letters that give each a specific identity. This means that Bitcoin is not only a token of value but also a method for transferring that value.”

Bitcoin first emerged in 2008. 

While it remained active, it only really started receiving mainstream attention in fall 2017. During the first week of September 2017,  a Bitcoin reached a new high with a value of $5,013. However, Bitcoin dropped 20 percent soon after the later weeks of September.

Bitcoin soon recovered and achieved a value of over $5,000 again in October 2017. Over the next few months, Bitcoin continued its historic rise. On December 17, 2017, Bitcoin reached an all-time high value of $19,783.21 for one Bitcoin.

According to Coindesk, the value of one Bitcoin presently is worth around $4,400. So, what happened to Bitcoin?

Billy Bambrough of Forbes points to five key issues which may have played a role in Bitcoin’s downfall: (1) mistrust following the hack of cryptocurrency giant Coinrail, (2) increased governmental regulations of cryptocurrency, (3) the decrease of transaction value, (4) users getting tired of Bitcoin, and (5) the power of financial detractors. 

On the first point of mistrust, here’s why people freaked out about Bitcoin. In June 2018, Coinrail, a company based in South Korea which trades around 50 cryptocurrencies, was hacked. This hack could have played a role in users mistrusting Bitcoin, as they could fear that considerable amounts of money could be stolen.

Governmental regulations are currently cracking down on Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency. In countries like China, Bitcoin is completely illegal. France will work with Germany to create a joint proposal on how to better regulate Bitcoin, according to Reuters. Crackdowns on cryptocurrency may deter some people from wanting to use Bitcoin.

Bitcoin still has some value, but its value continues to decrease – and it remains unclear if Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency will rise again in the future. Stay tuned. 

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Here’s how BTS made history at the United Nations General Assembly – and encourage you to #SpeakYourself

I’m sure that by now, the K-Pop band BTS needs no elaborate introduction. Even if you haven’t heard their music or seen their faces, you’ve heard the name. And whether or not you’re an ARMY or you understand why they’re so popular, you have to admit how that shows the strength of their global impact.

The band of seven young men from South Korea, who quite literally started from the bottom, are now in the midst of their world tour after having released their latest album “Love Yourself 結 ‘Answer'” to conclude their Love Yourself era. They have now made history as the first K-Pop group to attend and give a speech at the 73rd UN General Assembly as part of the #Youth2030 campaign. 

[Image Description: BTS posing for a group photoshoot wearing black formal suits and ties. Top row: V, Jin, Jimin Bottom Row: RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jungkook Source: AllKPop]
[Image Description: BTS posing for a group photoshoot wearing black formal suits and ties. Top row: V, Jin, Jimin. Bottom Row: RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jungkook – Source: AllKPop]
BTS have previously partnered with UNICEF to launch their Love Myself campaign last year, which aimed to end violence and to protect children and the youth from its disastrous effects. For people who still question their relevance, you might want to rethink your battle strategies the next time you have shit to say.

Yesterday, the seven men took center stage yet again, albeit it was a stage of a different kind. Their leader, 24 year old Kim Namjoon (also known as RM) delivered a six minute speech in fluent English to the numerous world leaders, ambassadors and royalty present at the event.

Namjoon talked about how, being an ordinary boy growing up in the city of Ilsan, he had extraordinary dreams of saving the world.

However, those dreams began to dull due to the fear of what others thought of him. Fear that was caused by people, including themselves at times, doubting their chances of success.

“No one called my name, and neither did I.

My heart stopped and my eyes closed shut.

So, like this, I, we all lost our names

We became like ghosts…”

He then talked about how all of the members, individually and collectively, have battled numerous hurdles in order to get to where they are now. He also insisted that they will continue to do so, only this time, with help of ever-growing faith and love for themselves and that their fans (the ARMY) give them. 

There is no doubt that ARMY have been inspired by the boys to love themselves and use that to overcome their hardships and conquer their own peaks. Namjoon acknowledged that and concluded his speech by encouraging us to “Speak Yourself”. He urges young people to find and own our names and voices, to embrace our passions and faults alike, and to be love ourselves in all our imperfectly perfect glory and tell our stories.

You can view the speech here:

A few hours later, #SpeakYourself is now one of the top trends on social media, with ARMYs from all over the world sharing their hearts, fears, flaws and dreams to the world with pride.

[Description: Kim Namjoon (RM) saying “No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin colour, your gender identity, just speak yourself.” at the UN Assembly with Jung Hoseok (J-Hope) and Jin standing behind him. – Source: Giphy]
Aside from their success story, BTS have won over millions of hearts because despite their celebrity status as idols, they never hid or suppressed their humanity. They never fail to remind us that they, too, are just as human as the rest of us. They have individual and collective flaws, they make mistakes, stumble from time to time, and have dealt with mental health issues (a subject still considered taboo in South Korea). They can be unabashedly goofy and silly and do not lead perfect lives.

They’ve all come from different cities, financial and educational backgrounds. Instead, of shunning their differences, they’ve treated them as bits of the uniqueness that collectively created the magic that is BTS.

Most importantly, they acknowledge that the process of loving themselves was just as tedious and taxing for them as it is for everyone of us. It won’t always be easy and mistakes (both big and small) will be inevitable, but that’s okay. The key is to accept that, learn from that, and continue.

Knowing all that and knowing their influence, they use it to encourage us to take that rocky road to personal well being in a dog-eat-dog world. It’s as if to say “We know what you feel because we’ve felt it too, but this is what helped us to be happy and can help you. It may be hard, but it will be worth it in the end. We believe in you.”

BTS have proven time and time again how they are not just your everyday run-of-the-mill boyband, but an actual force to be reckoned with. They’ve shown that pop culture, depending on how it’s used, has the power to affect even international politics. That just through spreading self-love and positivity, once we own our voices and ‘our names’, we will have the power to change the world.

So…what is your name?

[Image Description: BTS are sitting in a bed of pink, red and yellow flowers. They're all wearing pastel coloured shirts, and there are clouds behind them that are coloured purple and orange. From left to right: J-Hope, V, RM, Jungkook, Jimin, Jin, Suga - Source: Ticketmaster]
[Image Description: BTS are sitting in a bed of pink, red and yellow flowers. They’re all wearing pastel coloured shirts, and there are clouds behind them that are coloured purple and orange. From left to right: J-Hope, V, RM, Jungkook, Jimin, Jin, Suga – Source: Ticketmaster]
Music Pop Culture

Here’s how BTS is redefining what it means to be a (wildly popular) boyband

For a generation that grew up through the digital evolution – from Walkman to portable CD players to iPods to smartphones – music has always been an integral and accessible part of our lives.

Music often speaks where mere words don’t suffice and it can speak volumes. A good song can sometimes say exactly what you need to hear in a moment, giving voice to our own mess of emotions. The boyband phenomenon is a curious part of this. Mostly because they are not often known for being particularly poignant, despite having fun, catchy music.

That’s partly what makes the BTS invasion so interesting: even though BTS qualifies perfectly as a boyband, their impact on to our generation is inescapable.

Unless you’ve spent the past year or so under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the Korean group Bangtan Sonyeondan, a seven-member group that is not-so-secretly out for world domination. (I’m joking—mostly.) Their latest album dropped at the beginning of the summer and they’re everywhere these days.

BTS isn’t a new group, though. They’ve been around for five years now, making great music from the beginning.

But the response to them has definitely changed recently.

Suddenly, they’re being hailed globally as “the biggest boy band in the world” — no Korean or K-Pop attached. For a band that sings and raps mostly in Korean and has only one member fluent in English, this scale of global popularity is an insane achievement. Whether you, like me, were introduced to them by a friend or you encountered them randomly on the internet, it’s hard to escape the hype. And it’s no mystery why.

As artists, they seem to be defying the quantity-to-quality ratio by consistently churning out both, and even the language barrier proves to be a negligible obstacle. Diligent translators in the fan army constantly produce translations for the band’s constant stream of content.

Fans of BTS’s music span from John Legend to John Cena.

[Image description: BTS members V, RM and Jin are pictured (L-R) speaking to an interviewer. RM is saying, “It's a true miracle for us.”]
[Image description: BTS members V, RM and Jin are pictured (L-R) speaking to an interviewer. RM is saying, “It’s a true miracle for us.”] Attribution:
What sets the septet apart is that their music is created with significant input from the actual band members rather than industry professionals. In a world where popular music is usually characterized by company-produced generic lyrics, pop beats, and love songs, BTS dare to be different. A single message prevails throughout their oeuvre of work, no matter what the individual album’s theme is.

BTS are not saying bye bye bye, they don’t want it that way and they don’t think you don’t know you’re beautiful. No, their message is much more universal: love yourself.

Frankly, that’s unexpected, especially for a boyband that is essentially classified as K-pop. Yes, they’re great dancers and vocalists, but that is to be expected. Many actually consider the genre infamous for its formulaic sound and reliance on aesthetics, which means that BTS’s storytelling technique and diverse subject matter stand out.

[Image description: All 7 members of BTS are pictured accepting their second Billboard Music Award. Their leader RM is giving a speech, saying, “Some of our fans told us that our music really changed their lives.”] Attribution:
[Image description: All 7 members of BTS are pictured accepting their second Billboard Music Award. Their leader RM is giving a speech, saying, “Some of our fans told us that our music really changed their lives.”] Attribution:
They’re not just singing about sex or finding love or what they find attractive in a girl.

No, BTS address subjects like the education system, social conventions, individual ambition and expectations, self-love, capitalism and criticism.

Their chart-topping single Fake Love, for example, tackles the importance of being true to oneself when it comes to love. Another example is their latest single, Epiphany, which focuses on loving yourself, despite your imperfections. Subjects like these are unconventional in mainstream music, but they’re also incredibly important to this audience.

For a lot of millennials, identity has become something we actively question and consider. The fact that BTS fit into this narrative – that they too are young millennials questioning identity and writing good music about it – is an integral ingredient in the recipe to their success.

And it does work. With verses rich in metaphor and meaning, the quality of their work speaks for itself beyond the language barrier. Countless fans across the world attribute the band and their music to actively helping them deal with personal difficulties and mental health issues.

Their impact speaks to and for this generation.

They are now creating music that is gender non-specific and consulting feminist feedback for their lyrics. Members of BTS have shown repeatedly that they are willing to learn from their mistakes and improve constantly, an effort that stands out particularly when it comes to their racial awareness.

[Image description: Tyra Banks is pictured gesturing emphatically and saying, “I'm recovering from BTS, still.”] Attribution:
[Image description: Tyra Banks is pictured gesturing emphatically and saying, “I’m recovering from BTS, still.”] Attribution:
The resulting package is definitely a group that has redefined what the label of “boyband” entails. BTS go above and beyond that, creating music that speaks to people of every age and identity.

Their discography definitely comprises of some major jams, but it also has something important to say. BTS means more than cool music: it’s seven average dudes from Korea who are speaking to people around the globe.

And if that isn’t the essence of globalization, I don’t know what is.

Music BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

12 addictive K-pop songs that will convert you into a mega-fan

Whether you’re a veteran, a newbie, or a complete fresher at this – Korean Pop music (commonly abbreviated as K-pop) is a world unmatched. It’s deeply entrenched with artistic excellence and a fierce dedication to fanservice, and it has literally used the blood, sweat, and tears of the artists involved to get to where it has.

K-pop is intriguing, catchy as hell, mesmerizing, hooking, and various other words synonymous with captivating and intoxicating.

I don’t mean to sound intimidating when I say this but it’s true – you either love K-pop or you absolutely hate it – there is no in-between. You’re either a stan, or you just aren’t. Now, I’m gonna run you through some iconic moments in K-pop that have come to define my experience as a (rather infamously called) “K-Poppie.”

1. “Fire” by BTS

With its hypersonic beats, a chorus that will leave you speechless and a choreography that will absolutely blow your lid – this is the first song I suggest to the Muggles seeking an entry into the mystical realm of K-pop. Fire is an absolute bop about embracing your youth and breaking the rules to live your life lyrically and it’s honestly enough to get you hooked single-handedly.

2. “Don’t Wanna Cry” by SEVENTEEN

Another boy group that deserves a lot more recognition than it gets is SEVENTEEN. Composed of 13 (extremely talented and beautiful) men who will sweep you right off your feet – Don’t Wanna Cry is bound to become a favourite even if you are the occasional close-minded xenophobe who might not want to embrace languages other than your own because the drop that follows 울고 싶지 않아 (Ulgo Sipji An-ha) which literally translates to “don’t wanna cry” is catastrophically catchy.

I mean it.

3. “Monster” by EXO

EXO is, like, 50% of the reason I got into K-pop when I did and this song is honestly a masterpiece. With its brilliant vocals (EXO’s vocalists invented singing – I’m not joking with you here), splendid choreography, and visuals that will leave you speechless, this one’s for the ages.

4. “Red Flavor” by Red Velvet

You know that summer anthem that gets you tapping your feet and singing along to it the minute you hear the first five seconds of it? That’s this song right here. I’d be lying if I said this song did not define my summer of 2017 with its ultra-mesmerizing and catchy visuals, composition, and tone. The song is bound to take you to a land even non-revluvs enjoyed.

P.S. Revluvs are Red Velvet stans and you don’t have to be one to understand why this song is as iconic as it is.

5. “Likey” by TWICE

This song by girl group royalty, Twice, was interpreted the way almost every Twice song is at first: not well. Twice is known to have cute concepts since their debut and while everyone isn’t a huge fan of this fact, their fans remain true to the girl group that delivers adorable and catchy bops every single time. Likey is a whole bop and it’ll have you emulating the choreography in no time, even if you resisted it at first. I’m serious.

6. “As If It’s Your Last” by BLACKPINK

If you don’t BLACKPINK, you’re living under a rock. There, I said it.

BLACKPINK have been known for their powerful and unique concepts in contrast to the usual tone of girl groups in K-Pop since their debut and their debut hit Boombayah was nothing short of a viral sensation on YouTube. As If It’s Your Last with its playful vibe lays in stark contrast with their older singles Boombayah and Playing With Fire. Nevertheless, it happens to be my favourite by the girl group.

7. “Cherry Bomb by NCT (NCT 127)

This song was a defining moment for SM Entertainment’s youngest boy group. Following similar yet somehow different vibe from their older singles – Firetruck and Limitless – NCT were already gaining popularity when this extremely catchy bop hit our ears. And let me tell you, collectively caught everyone’s attention. I’d never bothered to pay attention to NCT until their subunit, NCT 127, hit me with this hit. (Pun absolutely intended).

8. “Blood, Sweat & Tears” by BTS

I can’t name a song more iconic than BS&T when it comes to BTS – or K-Pop in general, for that matter. This song caught hearts, ears, eyes, and every other external and internal bodily organ possible. From its heart-piercing vocals and rap to a bridge that left us all in awe with our jaws touching the depths of hell.

I know the chorus rang in your head whilst you read this. I know it did.

9. “View by SHINee

With its indie house vibe and a soft house chorus which goes deep into the synth, this song is literally what got me into K-pop. Before I heard View, I actually had a very fabricated presumptuous view of K-pop being nothing but autotune, colored hair, and over-the-top tacky concepts. But Shinee changed all of that for me with this one song. They’re truly the Princes of K-pop as they are often called.

10. “Hero” by MONSTAX

If you’ve heard this song, then the minute you read the title, you heard the post-chorus drop in your head, didn’t you? This catchy, hypersonic single with its equally heart-thumping music video was an instant hit amongst fans and non-fans alike. I, personally, did not even know of MONSTAX until last year, which is when I heard this bop. Needless to say, things changed drastically after that.

11. “New by Yves” of LOONA

LOONA has yet to debut, but their members and subunits have already caused enough of a stir to be talked about at length. Trust me, stanning a group that hasn’t debuted as yet is a feat in itself. I got into this girl group, thanks to member Yves’ single New because of the song’s retro-pop vibe, along with the costume and choreography. Before I knew it, I was hooked.

P.S. Stan! Loona! You! Cowards!

12. “My First and Last” by NCT (NCT Dream)

I actually went from saying “NCT Dream is too cute for me” to claiming every single member of NCT as my son and adding every song they’ve ever released to my favourites playlist because I’ve heard them so many times. My First And Last remains the ultimate favourite though, with its retro pop-rock vibe and jarringly innocent concept. NCT Dream are a powerhouse of talent and bops, honestly. And contrary to what my past self might claim, NCT Dream are way more than just a cute concept.

If you haven’t already lept into the (overwhelmingly awesome) world of K-pop as yet then I hope this list has managed to make it happen. Because let’s be real here, music doesn’t have a language and not being able to understand what they’re saying – at first go – should not stop you from enjoying good music.

World News Gender Tech The World Now + Beyond

Thousands of South Korean women are taking a historic stand against spy cam abuse

Masked in black, red, and white to conceal their identities, some 22,000 women took to the streets of Seoul to condemn the widespread molka crime culture or spy cam porn that has protected perpetrators who secretly record and upload explicit images of women on phones or camouflaged cameras installed in private spaces. The demonstration is being considered the biggest women-led protest in South Korea.

Led by anonymous collective Courage to Be Uncomfortable, protesters held signs that read “my life is not your porn,” “I’m am not ‘Korean Porn,’” and “Wanna shit with my guard down,” while others shaved their heads in protest of inactive government that fails to convict and prevent the invasive recording of women while sitting, on public transportation, and in public bathrooms. The crimes are so prevalent that an all-female “hidden camera-hunting” have banded together search public restrooms for concealed spy cams.

“The fear that women feel toward spy cameras isn’t out of proportion; it’s rational,” said Chang Dahye, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Criminology, in an interview with Korea Exposé. “It’s not just footage of sexual intercourse. There [is] spy cam footage of women relieving themselves in toilets; photos of women in bikinis, at home, walking on the street. On a website called Soranet, men would upload photographs of their girlfriends or wives, and ask others to rate the women’s genitals.”

The website has since been removed, but it doesn’t prevent the abusers from posting the images or videos on porn sites nor does it begin to address the problem.

From 2010 to 2014, the number of people arrested for these “molka” crimes increased from 1,100 to 6,600, according to police data published in an AFP report. This increase in spy cam crimes correlates with the rise of high-tech devices like cell phones that have become more accessible but often underregulated. In 2014, South Korea had the largest percentage of smartphone ownership in the world meaning 88 percent of a population of approximately 50 million had access to technology that made filming and sharing content to about seven billion people around the world as convenient as hitting send. While innovation continues to mature, government and laws lag behind in implementing laws that effectively explain and regulate the usage of technology, especially spy wear.

Oftentimes, like in the case of South Korea’s Article 14 of the Sexual Violence Punishment Act, what is considered criminal content is determined on what part of the body was captured and whether or not “that part of another person’s body which can induce sexual desire or humiliation.”

Leaving it up to interpretation while dismissing women’s right to privacy? What’s next?

The hidden technology used in this manner is not exclusive to South Korea. Incidents of spy cam pornography are global. According to NBC, in 2014 Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore agreed to pay a $190 million settlement to victims of a doctor who recorded more than 1,200 videos and 140 images of gynecological exams with a concealed pen camera worn around his neck.

At the root, these molka crimes speak to a larger issue pertaining to institutional sexism and the roles women play in society. During the protest, criticism towards a May incident where police swiftly acted on molka revenge porn against a male nude model by his female colleague sparked anger as female victims are often shamed for their trauma.

Though in patriarchal societies where women are reduced to objects of desire and for the disposal of men, it’s hard to see them as victims and not purveyors of their own misfortune.

Gender & Identity Life

Filipinos have a serious issue with Eurocentric beauty standards

It’s no surprise that Filipinos have a preference for Eurocentric features – after all, we cannot deny the massive influence of the West in our current ways of life. From the cultural products we consume and patronize such as foreign TV shows and films, to the mere predilection for the English language as more ‘“formal” and “refined” in comparison to local languages, it’s easy to see that we are fond of a culture that is not ours and that we consciously reshape ours to be more like theirs.

Filipinos are not the only ones who lean toward a Eurocentric lifestyle. Cosmetic operations have been prevalent among Koreans, another nationality whose popular culture also hold great influence among Filipinos. The most common cosmetic operation that Koreans undergo is the double eyelid surgery. Natives apparently believe that their natural looks are not beautiful enough and that enhancement following the blueprint of Western beauty will solve this presumed problem. This is disturbingly similar to the case of Filipinos. Please note that I have nothing against individuals who choose to undergo plastic surgery; there is nothing wrong with wanting to engage in programs or activities that we ourselves know will help us build our self-esteem. What I see as problematic, however, is how we think that our natural looks, and our culture in general, are inferior to that of persons from the West. We have been conditioned to subscribe to this xenocentric mindset.

Recently, a photo circulated on social media of a page from what appears to be a textbook officially used as required reading for younger Filipino students. The post emphasized the following sentence: “Unlike most Filipinos, she has curly hair that makes her more beautiful. She looks like a mestiza with her pointed nose and white fair skin.”

[Image Description: A close-up of a textbook page.] Via Facebook
This statement cites physical features that do not resemble the natural look of a Filipino. Filipinos rarely have curly hair; they have bulbous noses and tan skin. To blatantly say that this is the acceptable standard of beauty among people who do not naturally possess these qualities is problematic because it teaches Filipinos to think that their authentic looks are not beautiful enough and that there is always a need to change in order to fit in this imposed Eurocentric mold.

It is almost no surprise that the local media industry helps perpetuate this mindset by endorsing products that serve as “enhancers” such as whitening soaps as well as apparently giving more projects to actors who are “more attractive” according to said Eurocentric standards. The very over-reliance of Filipinos to other cultures is rooted in a similar concept: the idea that theirs are superior to ours.

But when academic materials fortify this problematic mindset by exposing youngsters to this way of thinking does way damage that could be irreversible. The media may have great influence on viewers, but scholars are seen as more credible and are expected to act accordingly. What will happen to future generations if this persists?

Academics must be the ones at the forefront of the initiative to break these faulty misconceptions and teaching the majority, particularly the youth, to embrace our own roots, our own culture. Filipinos deserve better than having no other choice but to latch onto these xenocentric beliefs.

We, in our most authentic, are beautiful. Our culture, in its rawest form, is worth celebrating. It’s time we fix what the textbooks teach us, what the media show us.