Top 5 Reasons We Love Darren Criss

Darren Criss has only been in television’s spotlight for a handful of years, but he has already managed to gather an incredible amount of dedicated fans. On twitter alone, his account has an impressive 1.7 million followers. It doesn’t take much to see that Criss is beloved by many.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the 27-year-old actor, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 reasons we love Darren Criss. See if you end up falling in love with him after reading them all.

 


 

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1. He’s Harry Potter.

Well… not exactly, but he certainly does a great job of portraying a comedic Harry Potter on stage. In 2009, Darren Criss co-founded a Chicago-based musical theatre company called StarKid Productions. That same year, Criss played Harry Potter in the StarKid production “A Very Potter Musical” and began gathering attention for himself. The hilarious musical was put on YouTube and became a viral video. The musical was so popular that they created two more installments. Even before hitting television screens, Criss already showed us his humor, charm, talent and stage presence.

 


 


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2. He’s Blaine.

Darren Criss is most known for his character Blaine Anderson on the popular Fox musical comedy-drama series Glee. Following his success with StarKid Productions, he was casted as the charming gay high school student. The chemistry between Blaine and another character named Kurt Hummel gained a large fan support and their relationship was named, “one of the most beloved TV couples of the millennium” by  the New York Post. Additionally, they were named Favorite TV Couple at the 2010 AfterElton.com Visibility Awards, and Entertainment Weekly claims that the boys have been “leading the way” in representing the gay community on television.

 


 

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3. He’s talented.
As you can probably tell from his work, Darren Criss is an awfully talented fellow. He began playing the violin at the age of 5 and was classically trained for 15 years. Of course, he didn’t stop there. He also taught himself how to play the guitar, piano, mandolin, harmonica and drums. By the age of ten, he began joining theater groups and theater companies. By 15, Criss began composing songs. He made his television debut in 2009 on Eastwick, his Broadway debut in 2012 in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and his film debut later that year in Girl Most Likely.

 

 


 


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4. He’s Filipino-American.
And he’s extremely proud of his roots. His mother is a native of Cebu, Philippines and went to live in America in hopes of better circumstances for her children. Criss admits that while his childhood was not too immersed in the culture, he has been to the Philippines numerous times and has a “bizarre kinship” with the country. “As soon as I got off the plane, I was like, ‘Ah, this is me back in the Philippines.” I love this place. Whatever Filipino blood [I have in me] is very happy to be here.” he said in an interview.

 


 


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5. He has a big heart.
Possibly one of the biggest reasons Criss has such a large fanbase is because he seems to be a genuinely good person. Following the massive Typhoon that hit the Philippines, Criss launched a campaign to encourage donations. His statement said, ”My mother was born & raised there, and as a result I have always been proud of my Filipino heritage, as well as lucky enough to feel the tremendous support of the Filipino community throughout my life as an artist.” Criss is an active supporter of The Trevor Project which focuses on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. His work with this organization gained him Variety’s Power of Youth Philanthropy award.

 


 

Bonus: He’s Hot.

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Throwback Thursday: Impressive Video Shows How Languages Sound to Foreigners

19-year-old Finnish YouTube user Sara is seen in this video spending nearly two minutes speaking absolute gibberish. She may not know many languages, but she certainly sounds like she does.

Throughout the video, Sara mimics what various languages sound like to her. While she may throw in a few correct words here and there, she clearly does not know how to actually speak the languages. She reminds us that correct speech is not the purpose of her video anyway. She simply wants to demonstrate how different languages sound like to the foreign ear.

During her demonstration of an American accent, she says ”Yeah, I mean, uh. Trevor-mis-underpairing-like-monin-fair. Follow me, like a pending friend-tricket. Balone-a-value precise-y. Hello?”

Clearly, she only knows a few words in English, but her ability to capture the accent is undeniable.

She also does a version of Japanese. Unfortunately, many viewers have said this is her weakest accent. Additionally, she ends the video with an “East Asian” demonstration that sounds closer to South Asia’s Vietnamese accent.

Of course, we understand that what we hear is simply a demonstration of how languages sounds like to her. This doesn’t seem to stop people from putting in their two cents. While the majority of viewers are impressed by her skills, there have been some people who are insulted that their language was not perfected and is shown in this manner.

Whatever the opinions may be, there is no denying this video is going viral. Less than a week since its release, the video gained nearly 4 million views on YouTube.

 

 

Sanrio Releases New Anime About A Strange Egg

When you think of Sanrio, you probably think of Hello Kitty and all the cuteness that comes along with her, but apparently Sanrio is trying something different.

The company is not only comprised of cute kitties, bunnies and puppies. As it turns out, Sanrio has no objection to using food items as characters and in quite an unexpected way. Some of these other, less-known characters can be more accurately described as strange instead of cute. This includes their new egg character Gudetama.

Gudetama is described as “an egg that is dead to the world and completely lacks motivation. No matter what cooking method you use, Gudetama remains unmoved.”

Sound a little boring? Well apparently Sanrio thought this character is interesting enough to dedicate an anime to. The 1-minute animated short aired in Japan a few days ago. According to Anime News Network, “The anime and game segment will run for about one minute, and the character will also appear in five-second news updates at 7:00 a.m. Asa Chan viewers can also participate in the “Gudetama Chance!” game. Viewers can use their remote controls to select the correct Gudetama card on the television screen and earn points.”  The results?

Japan loves Gudetama. Since the character’s creation in 2013, the little egg has become one of Sanrio’s most popular food-based characters.

Check out strange, new short below as well as pictures from the Gudetama twitter account.

 

 

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MUST SEE: Japan Gives Us a Glimpse of Advanced Technology Restaurants in the Future

There is simply no denying that our advances in technology will continue to progress. In fact, we have made so much progress in recent years that we like to hypothesize what the future may look like.

We did this with the movie Her starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson. The film has received widespread critical acclaim and praise. The appeal to the movie? A man falls in love with an operating system. This may seem impossible, but as it turns out, this may not be so unheard of after all. Japan, who is often known to be ahead of the game when it comes to technology, is already close to achieving this.

Japanese netizens are not in love with an operating system just yet. Instead, some are convinced that they are in love with a virtual girlfriend found in a video game. As you can see, Her isn’t that extreme after all.

Aside from virtual machines that we may grow to love, Japan has looked into various ways that our future may look like on an average day. In this video, a Tokyo-based tech company gives us a glimpse of what a restaurant may look like in the future.

Surprisingly, the woman in the video doesn’t have to actually interact with another human being. She can view the menu from her phone, touch the options in front of her and pay from her phone as well.

Although the idea of such advanced technology seems daunting, the things shown in this video aren’t too unrealistic. In fact, this seems like a perfectly plausible future restaurant. Of course, this may make it even more scary.

Watch the video below and tell us what you think.

 

“未来レストラン”へようこそ 〜 3/27 未来をカタチにする、スマートデバイス体験イベント from Recruit Tech. ATL on Vimeo.

This Little Twin Stars Cafe Might Be The Cutest Thing Ever

Some of Japan’s cutest characters come from the popular and beloved company, Sanrio, which was founded in 1960. In fact, Sanrio’s most popular face, Hello Kitty, has become one of the most successful marketing brands in the world. Walk into any Sanrio store and you can purchase nearly anything Hello Kitty-inspired. You can get Hello Kitty pencils, bags, toasters, bathroom appliances and even laundry baskets.

So it’s no secret that Sanrio has done incredible work to globally market their main character Hello Kitty, but in Japan itself, you can see even stronger efforts to market some of the other 400 characters in the Sanrio family.

One method is through pop-up cafes. In Japan, a number of restaurants and cafes utilize a theme for their food and products.  These items are limited edition and fans rush into the pop-up cafes to purchase the items before time runs out.

Last year in October, a My Melody pop-up cafe appeared in Tokyo. The adorable and pink products were an instant success. Sanrio is taking over a pop-up cafe once again. This time, the cafe is based on Kiki and Lala who are more commonly referred to as the Little Twin Stars. Kiki and Lala were introduced in 1975 and the angel-like characters have had quite a large fan base.

Now their fans can enjoy pink and blue hamburgers, star-shaped pancakes and even the Little Twin Stars’ faces on top of a cup of coffee. Clearly, it’s all too cute to miss. If you happen to be in Tokyo, be sure to check it out! The Cafe will be themed Little Twin Stars until the end of May. Find out more information below:

Tel: 03-3477-5773
Email: info@the-guest.com
Facebook: THE GUEST

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Website Offering Platform for ‘Discreet Cheating’ Launches in SKorea

Story by Steve Han. 

The above Ashley Madison.com ad shows a drop-down menu that lets users
choose between ”a married man seeking a woman”and “a married woman seeking a man.”

An entrepreneur dubbed the “King of Infidelity” has taken his message of “life is short, have an affair” to South Korea, launching an online dating website meant to “help” married people seek extramarital partners.

Noel Biderman, CEO of Ashelymadison.com, an online matchmaking service for married people, launched the Korean edition of his website this month to “change the Korean society” while gaining profits for himself. He is tiptoeing the line between turning some married South Koreans into adulterers and advocating for what he calls social change, as he says Korea’s laws criminalizing adultery are archaic.

“I have looked through the Korean market and found that more and more people are marrying late, or not marrying at all,” Biderman told The Korea Herald. “At the same time, the rate of divorce, especially for those initiated by women, is climbing rapidly.

“I cannot talk anyone into cheating,” he added. “I am just providing them with a platform that they could (use to) have an affair discreetly … I believe that having an affair could prevent divorce.”

Exactly how Biderman hopes to use his venture to mend South Korea’s rising divorce rate isn’t clear, and he chooses not to visit Seoul because he fears the public may publicly egg him.

“I am dying to see Seoul personally, but the feedback was, ‘If you need a spanking, come to Korea,’” Biderman, a former sports agent, said.

Despite the criticism, Biderman is raking in millions of dollars by running the same website in 36 different countries, including the U.S. and Australia. Ashelymadison.com grossed about $125 million last year, according to the Herald report. It gleans its largest profits from male customers, who comprise about 80 percent of the site’s membership, the article said. Men must pay a “credit” in order to initiate a conversation; in Korea, that amount is 2,150 won ($2); women, however, don’t have to pay a fee.

Biderman said he finds the first three years of marriage the most ripe for cheating. “Those whose wives are pregnant, have kids and are less caring to husbands, those into their 40s and 50s, they are the major targets,” he said, “not to ignore the ‘Viagra generation.’”

This story was originally published in iamkoream.com 

 

Audrey Women of Influence: ELAINE QUIJANO

Story by Shinyung Oh.

“Bridgegate” breaks on the morning of Wednesday, January 8, 2014. In New York’s CBS Broadcast Center, correspondent Elaine Quijano heads to the National Desk to seize the assignment. After talking to her producers, Quijano obtains a copy of the newly released emails regarding the shutdown of lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., allegedly ordered by Gov. Chris Christie’s staff as political retribution. First, she works on verifying their content. Then, she pores over the heavily redacted documents to try to decipher what is going on. At the same time, her team works on tracking down Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, the rumored target of the retribution, to schedule an interview. Quijano fires off a draft outline to her producers before dashing out at 2 p.m.

Quijano hops in a cab to head to Fort Lee on the heels of her team members who left earlier in their satellite van. Unexpectedly, they encounter a traffic accident on West Side Highway. Panic sets in. The mayor has limited availability. The show airs at 6:30 p.m. Quijano calls her senior producers to update them while her mind races to make alternative plans. Should she hop on the ferry? Track down the mayor elsewhere? For Quijano, missing the interview is not an option. This is no time to be meek. She has to get the story.

The cab makes its way through West Side Highway and Lincoln Tunnel before finally pulling up to Fort Lee. Quijano interviews Sokolich and heads over to the George Washington Bridge where she will do her live shot. There she hunkers down in the satellite van to pull her story together.

In the segment that airs later that evening on CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, Quijano displays none of the panic that ensued shortly before. She gazes calmly into the camera, her shoulder-length hair pulled back with not a wisp out of place and white pearl earrings dangling placidly, as she reports the story that has the potential to bring down the rumored Republican presidential favorite for 2016. She’s home by 7:30 that evening to put her three kids to bed. It’s just another workday for Quijano.

Quijano, who is in her late 30s, lives a journalism student’s dream. Upon graduating from the University of Illinois, she worked at a couple of local stations before landing at CNN Newsource and then at CNN where she covered various beats, including the White House, the Pentagon and the Supreme Court. Now at CBS as a correspondent, Quijano reports for CBS Evening News and CBS This Morning. Ask whether she thinks of herself as a success, and she’ll brush it off. “Everyone defines success differently,” she says.

But by anyone’s standards, Quijano has climbed to the top of her field. She’s reported on stories as far reaching as 9/11, the election of George W. Bush, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. On CBS Evening News alone, more than 6 million viewers watch her nightly as she reports on events like the inauguration of Pope Francis, the trial of “Whitey” Bulger, and the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. She works with some of the most renowned names in the field, including Scott Pelley, Charlie Rose and Bob Schieffer.

She talks as if she simply willed herself to reach these heights. “I’ve just been persistent,” she says about her career. “It requires absolute commitment. Your will has to be such that you endure.” But any ascent requires toil, and Quijano has had her share. Take this example. When Hurricane Sandy unleashed on the East Coast on Oct. 29, 2012, Quijano bundled herself in her down jacket and winter boots to meet the hurricane in Belmar, N.J. From 6 a.m. until noon, she stood in boots filled with frigid water, pants drenched, with sand pelting her as she clutched the exterior handrail of a nearby house to anchor herself. She worried about hypothermia and felt as if she was having an out-of-body experience. In the aired footage, the ocean bellows behind her and Quijano fights to keep her eyes open against the punishing rain and wind. But what you see is a reporter at work, steadily describing for her viewers the overwhelming force of Mother Nature and the imperative to evacuate.

At such moments, Quijano blocks out all else and sees only the mission at hand. “I live in the moment,” she says. “I concentrate on it 150 percent.”

Above all else, she is prepared. In her office, she has a closet where she keeps two bags, extra clothes and weather gear, like snow boots, hand and foot warmers and everything else she may need for wherever she is sent. On any given day, at any given moment, she may get launched on a story hundreds of miles away. “This is the worst,” she says, “to be unprepared.” She doesn’t even like wearing her suits to work, preferring to change once she gets to the office, for fear of getting a stain during her commute.

Quijano says that she was first attracted to broadcast journalism in part because of the adrenaline rush. But she does not look like an adrenaline junkie. Instead, she talks like a second grade teacher, ever patient, always calm. Watch her interview the parents of Newtown victims as she listens with the intensity of a psychotherapist, her face intent with empathy. “My objective is to hear what they want to say,” she says about her interview subjects. “I try to be compassionate and respectful and try to listen a lot more than I talk.”

Interviewing Sandy Hook parents was particularly difficult. At the time, her daughter was 6, the same age as the young victims. “I found it too easy to stand in their shoes, to know how to convey the stories for those parents,” she says.

When she has a choice, she prefers a walk on the lighter side. “I like stories where the viewer is left with the feeling that the world is not such a bad place to be — people coming to the aid of others, people overcoming things,” she says. “These resonate with me.” Her recent favorites? A story on Kid President, a 10-year-old boy with brittle bone disease whose homemade videos went viral. “I always root for the underdog,” she says. Then there is the story of Diana Nyad who, after several failed attempts, finally swam from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64. This story appealed to Quijano because she takes to heart the message that failure is never final. “For many people who are struggling with whatever they have in their life, [Nyad] represents this goal — that you should do what you do. It’s a human story told within the parameters of a swim.”

When asked if she identifies with the underdog and what she had to overcome in her own history, she refuses to go there. “We’re not ones to navel gaze,” she says, referring to herself and her Filipino American family. “You do what you must.” For Quijano, failure is not an option, and it certainly does not have the last word. It barely registers on her mental barometer. She is too busy. She has stories to tell.

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here.  

7000 Islands: A Food Portrait of the Philippines

Story by Kristine Ortiz. 

Australian-born Filipina Yasmin Newman used to visit the Philippines as a child, but it wasn’t until she became an adult that she discovered a true passion for Filipino food. Today, she presents the Filipino Kitchen Conversation program on Australia’s SBS radio, and her new coffee table book, 7000 Islands: A Food Portrait of the Philippines, is a lush collection of Filipino food, life and culture.

With stunning photos (she took them herself!) of not just native dishes but people and places that lend a richness to the recipes within, the book offers juicy cultural tidbits like the tradition of pasalubong (small souvenirs you bring home for friends and family), local fables and lore, and a bit of historical context for a full, well-rounded picture of Filipino life and cuisine. Our favorite part of the book is her take on local dining culture, excerpted here.

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How to Eat in the Philippines (excerpted from 7000 Islands)

Take in what’s on offer.
A lot of preparation has gone into this meal and a simple glance will often miss a delicious dish hiding in the banquet.

Pile your plate with anything (and everything) that takes your fancy.
A little bit of this, a little bit of that and definitely some of that over there. Don’t forget the rice.

Sit back and let the elements blend.
Multiple dishes offer more than just choice — Filipinos believe food tastes best once different flavours have combined on the plate.

Eat with gusto.
Don’t be shy! Use your hands to dip food into sauces. Feel free to move from a savoury to a sweet dish, then back to savoury — there are no rules here.

Always go back for more.
Lest your host think you’ve not eaten enough. One serving will not suffice.

Leave a little remainder on your plate.
Lest your host think you’re not full!

Let the gossiping, jokes and laughter begin.
Not much talk takes place at the start of a meal — Filipinos are too excited by the food. Once stomachs are sated, smiles can be seen around the table. Don’t rush off; here, family and friends hang out to chat for seemingly hours on end.

Details Hardcover, $39.95, available April, rizzoliusa.com.
Excerpted from 7000 Islands: A Food Portrait of the Philippines by Yasmin Newman, Hardie Grant, 2014. Food photography © Jana Liebenstein and location shots © Yasmin Newman; no images may be used, in print or electronically, without written consent from the publisher. 

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here.

 

Phyllis Chen Proves Toy Piano Ain’t No Child’s Play

Story by Jimmy Lee. 

When you tell people you play the toy piano professionally, hearing snickers or getting a blank stare just comes with the territory. It’s something Phyllis Chen is not unfamiliar with.

“People used to turn their noses when they heard I played classical music as well,” says Chen. “But that’s OK. That’s not a major concern of mine.”

The more pressing matters on her mind include finishing her latest commission, a composition for string orchestra and toy piano, which she will debut in April in Austin, Texas.

Chen is just one of a few musicians demonstrating that the toy piano is not just a plaything for children. “When I touched it, it was like how I felt about the piano. I just loved the tactile experience of playing it and fell in love with the bell-like sound,” says Chen, who first came across the miniaturized instrument when she was 21 (it was being used as a prop in a puppet theater). Now she’s composing new pieces and releasing CDs highlighting the toy piano. “I knew that there wasn’t a lot of music out there for it, and it made me feel like I can create new repertoire for something that doesn’t have boundaries and the traditional thinking that is expected in classical music.”

There is, however, a lot of misconceptions about what Chen does. For one, she is not anything like Schroeder of the Peanuts comics and cartoons, playing Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” on her toy piano. And she’s not the child whom producers from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno assumed she was when they inquired about her appearing — they weren’t interested in adult toy pianists, apparently. And some people who venture into one of her concerts might walk in with wacky expectations, like the one time a few audience members told Chen they thought she was going to be a miniature pianist (as in a small person).

“It’s a profession filled with misunderstandings,” says Chen.

Another refrain she hears often is that people who hear toy piano automatically assume it’s music meant for kids. But what she’s playing is verging on the avant-garde, and could even be construed as too arty; it’s music not for the masses. One of the first pieces she performed publicly was written by John Cage, the master modern composer most notorious for “4”33’,” which is 4 minutes and 33 seconds of the orchestra sitting in silence.

So how does a classically trained pianist, who started playing at the age of 5 and has music degrees from Oberlin (undergrad) and Northwestern (master’s) and is nearing completion of her doctorate from Indiana University, end up behind a toy piano? For Chen, it started with tendinitis that affected her hands. The doctors told her to take a break from the piano. “In a way, it was a blessing in disguise. It gave me the actual chance to do my own thing,” says Chen.

Her hands, since childhood, have gravitated toward sonic-producing objects. She was the one who wanted to start the piano at age 5, not her immigrant Taiwanese parents, who moved Chen, born in Schenectady, N.Y., and her brother to the South when she was 1, after her father became a professor at Virginia Tech. “Now, thinking about it, I rented bassoons, oboes, clarinets and flutes — all these things when I was a kid. I just wanted to get my hands on them and play them,” recounts Chen. “It was again the tactile experience.”

She does still play the piano, often with the International Contemporary Ensemble that she co-founded. She has also tackled the violin and yet another keyboard instrument: “I was completely in love with the accordion, and I totally thought I would become an accordion player,” says Chen. She even joined a klezmer band, but bearing it on her shoulders was too much while dealing with her tendinitis. The toy piano, on the other hand, “was an easy instrument to play because of the light touch.”

Chen exhibited that touch at a concert last September at New York City’s Joe’s Pub, while seated on a short stool. Yet she still loomed large over two toy pianos, one in the shape of an upright and the other a baby grand. You not only hear the bell-like tinkling of the notes she plays, but also the movement of the keys as they’re being depressed. And it’s really noticeable when Chen’s fingers are flying across the few octaves that fit on the keyboards. Her instruments project a clangy sound that dissipates quickly. There are no rich, resonant tones that you’d expect from a concert Steinway. And Chen is perfectly fine with that.

“[Toy pianos are] really kind of like a voice. They all have their own weird quirks,” says Chen. “It’s funny, but I’ve met instrument makers who say, you should put this into maple wood, and I could tune it for you [to make it more like a real piano]. Well, then, it’s not a toy piano if it’s perfect, beautiful sounding.”

With the toy piano, there are no unwritten rules to be bound by. Rather, the toy piano is pushing Chen to be a better artist. “I don’t feel as musically stuck anymore, or stifled by the classical tradition,” she says. “Now I could finally give myself the permission to do whatever I want and take responsibility for it.”

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here

This Adorable 3-Year-Old Will Make Your Day With His Dance Moves

Even if you have the worst case of the Mondays, 3-year-old Zhang Junhao will certainly make your day.

A Chinese reality show, which appears to be similar to America’s Got Talent, recently had the brave young boy on their stage to impress the judges and bring the audience to their feet.

The boy doesn’t appear to have an ounce of bashfulness as he hugs his luggage, calls it his baby and says he will dance with his baby. The second Zhang Junhao walks on stage, he puts a smile on the faces of the judges including celebrity judge Jet Li.

After running up to the judges to give them all a kiss on the cheek, he begins showing off his adorable dance skills. He does everything from the robot to karate punches to skipping. Zhang Junhao may be young and his dancing may be completely random, but he certainly seems natural at putting a smile on someone’s face.

He bravely tells the judges that he was not afraid to perform and he dances for his entire family everyday. He then tells the judges that he loves dancing because it makes his mother laugh and laughter is happiness.

Trust us when we say young  Zhang Junhao will put a smile on your face.

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