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MIT blogger Kidist A. '22

things i’ve made and/or consumed by Kidist A. '22

art, movies, shows, and more

I started this blog post in the summer with the intention of posting it then, but the lists kept growing. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing during the quarantine.  

ART

I’m most comfortable with watercolor and graphite, so I tried to experiment with other media. 

EmbroideryI started this piece last spring semester thinking it would take a couple of days and a maximum of 20 hours. I was off by a factor of ~2.5. I watched the entirety of the show The Magicians as I embroidered, and I still hadn’t finished. Nevertheless, I think all the time that went into it was worth it, especially as it’s my first embroidery project. My initial goal of the piece was to illustrate accents and the uniqueness of accents (cheesy, I know) hence the attempted stitching of a fingerprint around the person with some escaping her mouth. 

I’ve been wanting to embroider for a long time. I bought all the materials  the summer after high school, but I didn’t have time. Or I didn’t make time. I have been wanting to make art and write for so long, but something always comes up. I don’t know what stirred me to just start doing and creating and making ~something~. In a way, it feels like a dream come true because I’m finally getting to actualize many ideas I’ve had for a while now.   

an embroidered abstract face

This was my next attempt at embroidery, and it was a… process. My initial idea was to embroidery a loose/free/abstract portrait of a woman, but I didn’t check the width of the tulle I bought and it ended up being a lot smaller than I planned. So then I thought that I could do three different portraits, one slightly different from the other, and layer them. I thought that the layers could represent time and differences could show change in a person. But when I actually started embroidering, I changed my plan again. The tulle was so thin and flimsy. It’s width was smaller than the width of my embroidery hoop, so it was only secure from the top and bottom. I think the combination of the two made it a lot easier for the tulle to bunch up together if I accidentally tugged on the thread too much (you can see this in the right). It was just so annoying to work with that I changed my plan from doing three separate portraits to just different parts of the face. I decided to do something more abstract and convey a feeling of confusion in the separation but familiarity of the face. In the end, I felt more glad that I was done with this than proud. I like how the lips turned out though. 

Acrylics 

small painting of jim and pam from the office

This painting reminded me why I haven’t touched acrylics in two years. I tried painting this three times. The first time, I struggled a lot because I didn’t have small enough brushes, and it was almost impossible to paint lines or any facial features. So, I bought smaller brushes, painted everything white, and started over. Now I was struggling with blending small areas. Usually, I use a dry brush to soften the edges of the shadows or highlights, but the smaller brushes weren’t really good for blending. The hairs of the brushes were too long and thin which is great for fine lines but not necessarily for applying some pressure to soften the edges. Also, even though the brushes had a fine tip, I would pick up paint in such a way that it would form a bead at the tip, making it wider than the tip of the brush. I also struggled with mixing skin colors; the final painting was very pink, which I tried to correct after someone pointed it out. Maybe you can see it a little bit. Anyways, long story short, I started another painting and basically used the acrylics as watercolor by watering the paint down. This and my lack of skill in general is probably why the painting doesn’t have much depth. Initially I wanted to make the painting a little more realistic, but after everything, I opted for a more cartoon-ish vibe. This painting was ambitious for me because I don’t usually use acrylics and doing a small and detailed painting is kinda challenging. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but I’m satisfied overall. I didn’t want to give up because I’d planned this painting as a gift for the person who “lightly” encouraged me to watch The Office. Even though it was months late because of all the struggles, at least it brought someone joy and I guess that’s the point of art.     

Scratchboard

scratchboard piece of hand pulling on fabric

When I was 9 or 10 years old, my uncle got me a scratchboard piece that already had a drawing outlined and you were supposed to scratch along the lines. Ever since then I’d think about scratchboards from time to time, and I finally decided to try it out this year. This piece is my corny way of illustrating light pollution. Starting the piece was kinda scary because once you scratch, you can’t undo it. And if you accidentally take too much, then you have to start over. So this piece was an exercise of patience and knowing when to stop, which is to stay this was a struggle. I started with the hand and worked my way into the fabric/curtain/light metaphor and after a while I just gave up and scratched away what looks good instead of what actually makes sense based on my reference picture. This was a mistake but hopefully people won’t really notice (unless I bring attention to it like I am right now lol). I think it’s not bad for a first attempt. While working on this, I would take breaks and scratch in this randomly organized pattern, and it was so therapeutic! I highly recommend scratchboards for random zentagles and doodles.  

Gouache 

painting of cars

I thought gouache would bridge my disdain for acrylics and love for watercolor by giving me the consistency of watercolor paint and the opaqueness of acrylics. Everything was going well for the first layer of paint. But as soon as I started the second layer, the first layer started coming off because water reactivates gouache. Heartbreaking though granted it was on me for not really doing much research and just diving into using it. Also the reference picture I used, a blurry shot of cars in traffic, was hard to paint. Anyways, I really struggled with this painting, but on the bright side, I learned a lot the hard way lol. I also should’ve taped the sides to get cripsy edges. This isn’t the worst painting for a first attempt using gouache. 

 

WRITING

Journaling 

In the past, I have tried to keep a daily journal to varying degrees of success. I tried to keep a diary when I was younger, but my mom said she had the right to read it, so I stopped. I attempted to come up with some code language to journal in, but that got exhausting to maintain. In seventh grade, I journaled the happiest moment of the day for a school year, which I treasure now because that was my last year living in Ethiopia. Last summer, I tried to keep a daily journal of notable moments throughout the day, but I only did it for the month of July. 

All these attempts to journal frequently have taught me many things that I’ve tried to apply to achieve my new year’s resolutions to keep a consistent journal. One thing I’m doing differently is journaling weekly instead of daily. It’s less pressure to write something every few days, and it helps me avoid the guilt I would feel when I broke my daily journaling streak. Writing in a different font also helped me somehow. I’ve kept up weekly journaling since early February, and I’ve written over 36,000 words. I’m excited to read it after a few years and see how much my view of events changes.  

Poetry

I took a poetry workshop class last semester, and it was such an enriching experience. I feel like I’ve grown so much as a writer in a short period of time thanks to my wonderful professor and peers. I’ve been trying to take the lessons that I’ve learned as I write to my heart’s content.    

Vocabulary 

Another new year’s resolution of mine was to actively expand my vocabulary to help with my writing and reading. 2019 Kidist didn’t leave specifics as to how to achieve that, and after putting it off for half the year, I decided to tackle it over the summer. I stumbled upon a site called Vocabulary.com, which is essentially Quizlet but for learning words with spaced repetition. What I liked about this site is that it had pre-made lists centered on different books, poems, speeches, and themes. They had a set of vocab words and lists from books about immigration, and I picked Americanah. The list has around 220 words. A lot of the words I know or I’m familiar with, but I often end up learning new words that are synonyms of those words that I already knew. I’m hoping at the very least that when I encounter those words, I recognize what it means if I can’t immediately define it. 

 

BOOKS 

I wrote about the 10 books I read this year in a separate blog post. Currently, I’m reading Anatomy of a Story by John Truby and Warsan Shire’s teaching my mother how to give birth. 

books I’ve read this year

 

PODCASTS

I started listening to No Stupid Questions when I would paint/draw, and I love it so much! Almost all of the questions they discuss are ones that I have wrestled with at some point, and I’ve taken away so much from their casual discussions. NSQ is the only podcast I’ve consistently listened to but the other two I occasionally listen to are 80,000 hours and Death, Sex & Money. 

 

SHOWS

BoJack Horseman

This show is …interesting. There are so many ridiculous sub-plots that are so well-developed and somehow tie into the bigger storyline. The writers of this show are either incredibly creative or crazy or maybe both. The show explores many mature and depressing themes, and it’s not afraid to not have happy endings. I feel like BJH goes beyond the average dEeP qUeStiOnS that many storylines cover; many times BJH shows you the complicated areas of life and leaves it at that without trying to draw a line. Somehow this cartoon about humans and talking animals has exposed me to many gray conflicts where I couldn’t immediately pass judgment and pick a side. It’s real and funny and witty and sad and you should watch it sometime. 

Money Heist

Watching Money Heist felt like those times when you’re waiting on an important email and constantly refreshing your inbox as your heart beats faster and faster. Your heart stops when you see a notification to only realize that was not the email you wanted. So, the cycle continues. Alternatively, it felt like hanging from a cliff by a thread as your hands got progressively sweaty and slippery. I don’t think I can fully express the tension I felt watching this show; Money Heist exemplifies the thriller genre to the highest degree. And it is incredible. 

Many times I had to pause the show to walk around my room, breathe, pray, or fight the temptation to look up what would happen to my beloved characters. The show involves a lot of flashbacks, a form of story-telling I personally really enjoy (and the show does it really well). The dialogue and narration are absolutely beautiful, especially the different metaphors the characters and narrator make about life, love, and death. The characters are imperfect whose faults can be interpreted in different ways by different people, which sparks interesting conversations. I also really loved seeing how the movement of the camera contributed to the story. There’s just a certain flair to how the actors play their characters and the whole show that’s hard to verbalize. You just have to watch it. 

The Office

I recognize that I’m very late to this party, and it’s probably no surprise that I loved the show. I really appreciated the subtle jokes, which were either moments that were funny if you thought about it a little or obvious jokes that were even funnier the more you thought about it. It’s a shame it’s not on Netflix anymore because I know I’ve probably only scratched the surface of the show’s humor.  

The Magicians

I started this show a few years ago but discontinued it because I got busy with school. I remember reading a news article that pitched the show as Harry Potter for adults, where I think ‘adults’ is a euphemism sex scenes, gore, and darker themes. A lot of the aspects I love about Harry Potter such as the complex fantasy world and rules are also present in The Magicians. The characters are witty and sarcastic, which lifts the mood of the show during bleak moments. Many of the magic scenes are breathtaking. Somehow this new show feels nostalgic, which made coming to terms with the end of the show a little harder than usual.  

Avatar: The Last Airbender

This show is amazing in so many ways, and I’m envious of everyone that can call ATLA a childhood show. You can read how much I really like Avatar in my other blog about it. Literally, everything about this show is amazing, and there’s nothing I can say to fully express its brilliance. I’m glad that I watched it even if I’m late to the game. 

Avatar and Desserts

 

Legend of Korra

I loved this show so much that I finished it within two days. I could not stop watching. LOK gets so much unnecessary hate, and I think it’s because people expect it to be a second ATLA. What I loved most about ATLA was the complexity and nuance and LOK was on the same level in that regard. The soundtrack is majestic. Most of the villains are well-developed because you can understand where they are coming from. I related to Korra more than any character in ATLA and LOK. A part of me wishes that I had seen more flashbacks of characters from ATLA, but ultimately I’m glad that LOK didn’t try to repeat what was already done. 

Little Fires Everywhere

I was watching a YouTube video that had a clip from the show, and I just made the spontaneous decision to binge-watch the show at 1AM on a Thursday 01 I was able to get a reasonable amount of sleep because I watch most of my videos on 2x speed. My ability to get away with not-so-healthy decisions without facing consequences is why this was not the last time I did this lol. Be better than me . I admire the story most of all. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that the specific situation that was crafted was so great because it allowed the show to explore the intersection of motherhood, race, and class. I also liked that the protagonist is pretty flawed. There were a lot of good questions raised, and similar to Bojack Horseman, this show introduced me to a lot of gray areas and conflicts where it’s hard to immediately pass judgment. I highly recommend everyone watch it.  

Chernobyl

Chernobyl was so gut-wrenching. The government’s irresponsible denial of the magnitude of the disaster stings even more in this COVID era. There were other parallels to the present day, and it saddened me that we don’t really learn from history. Sigh. 

The Mindy Project

This is such an underrated show. There were many times when I had to pause multiple times in one episode because I was laughing so hard. Even The Office didn’t make me laugh as much and it gets all the hype. 

The Crown

I cannot remember why I started watching this show as I generally don’t watch historical fiction but it did not disappoint. I don’t really think of British royalty enough to be envious but the show has definitely wiped out any allure I thought it had.   

Insecure

FOMO motivated me to start watching the show but the quality plot and characters made me stay. It also may or may not have strengthened my fear of adulthood and losing friendships.  

Queen’s Gambit

I binged this show because of peer pressure lol. I think because many of the other shows and movies I’d watched were so full of drama and action, I felt a bit underwhelmed by Queen’s Gambit. But I’ve come around after reading about what others loved about the show.   

 

MOVIES

Barbie

Over the summer, a sudden yet deep desire for barbie movies washed over me, and I spent a few days watching the ones that I had seen when I was younger. And frankly, these movies are so freaking good. I definitely did not appreciate them as a child. The conversations are not dumbed down for children at all. The music and visuals are gorgeous. The plot is not only riveting but appropriately paced. Most of the movies don’t waste any time with filler scenes; it gets straight to the point. Here are my favorite movies ranked in order (even though the first three are lowkey a tie). 

  • Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper
    • The plot? Fire. The music? Popping. The vocabulary? Advanced.  
  • Barbie as Rapunzel 
    • This movie awakened my inner artist. 
  • Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus
    • This one definitely had the best plot of all. Also, I just love the elegance and beauty of ice skating. 
  • Barbie of Swan Lake 
    • I remember wanting to learn ballet because of this movie. Here’s mini-me in my mini costume.  
toddle pic of me in a barbie costume

me and my barbie fit😌

  • Barbie in the Nutcracker 
    • This was my least favorite because the ending was a little confusing. I love the music. 

Gone Girl

I’d kinda spoiled the movie for myself by watching many video essays a few years ago on why the movie is so great. Even though I knew who the villain was, there was much more detail and brilliance to pick apart and enjoy. 

Us

Even though Us is a horror/thriller movie, the ending deeply saddened me, and I spent a few days after finishing the movie reading Reddit threads about plot holes to make myself feel better that the ending ‘couldn’t happen’ in this fictional parallel world. Us made me realize that I care too much about fictional characters, and I need to properly time when or if I watch certain things for my mental and emotional health. 

Knives Out

What a great movie this was. It had a tight plot with a few twists that subverted many expectations. Also, it has no kissing scenes, so it’s extremely parent-friendly. 02 there is some cussing and masturbation is briefly mentioned twice but the good stare-intently-at-the-screen or pretend-you-hear-it trick should avoid awkwardness and/or lecture

Social Dilemma 

There was a lot of talk about this documentary at the beginning of the year, but personally, the movie didn’t live up to its hype. I guess I had thought that social media being designed to be addictive and destructive was common knowledge.03 I've been trying to curb my addiction for years, and I've watched so many YouTube videos that said many of the things shared in Social Dilemma  The movie came off as just a bunch of white guys saying they regret what they’d done (of course after they’d made all their profits). It’s still worth watching for a refresher.

The Minimalists: Less Is Now

I follow Matt D’Avella04 </span>YouTuber whose content focuses on productivity, habits, minimalism, life, etc. , and I wanted to support his work (he directed the film). Because I’ve watched many of Matt’s videos, I’m familiar with minimalism and definitely support the idea, but my actions don’t really reflect that lol. When I got back to campus, I did the thirty-day challenge they posed at the end of the documentary which was to get rid of one item on day one, two items on day two, etc. except I did it all in one day and got rid of/donated 465+ things.

Soul

The way this movie melted my heart… no words. Soul was so timely to the doubts and sadness I was feeling when I watched it that I just feel like this movie was made for me.  

Malcolm and Marie

I watched this for Zendaya and because I thought it was a cute romance movie. LOL. I got toxic relationship instead so watcher beware. I thought it was still good even though I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t what I expected.   

Black Swan

Over IAP, I fell into another Barbie hole and eventually started listening to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake while working which then led me to Black Swan. And I’m so grateful for it because it is such a great movie. I know I’m late to the party again. I just appreciate that satisfaction this movie made me feel after just finishing a clean and concise story imbued with intention. 

 

ALBUMS

70% of my music taste is determined by the mere-exposure effect,05 The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.  so don’t take this list to mean anything more. To be honest, I don’t care for music *that* much; it’s not something I list as one of my personality traits. I will listen to most genres, and I really enjoy the more popular ones such as pop and R&B.

After Hours by The Weeknd: The Weeknd is my Habesha King, so of course I play his album on a weekly if not daily basis. This is my favorite album of the year. Just bop after bop. 

The Album by Teyana Taylor: This is a no-skips album, just vibe. This is probably my second favorite album. Teyana is so beautiful and talented and my body goals. I have no choice but to stan her music. 

Ungodly Hour by Chloe X Halle: honestly, I listen to their live performances more than their actual album because I LIVE for their outfits and vocals. This is my favorite performance. These are my top two absolute favorites but it was hard to pick.

Homecoming: The Live Album by Beyoncé: This is the Album I’ve been listening to when I wash my hair. The drums, the beats, the vocals, just everything is unparalleled.  

Over it by Summer Walker: I just vibe with this album and Summer’s voice. It’s so soothing, and I’ll often listen to this when I work because it drowns the voice of my thoughts and helps me concentrate.     

Pure Heroine by Lorde: I saw a tweet about how Lorde was 16 when she released this album, and I didn’t believe it. I listened to it again, and a combination of nostalgia and Lorde’s genius has made me replay it over and over. I remember being 13 and jamming to Royals. It’s so crazy to think that she was THREE(3) years older than me when she dropped that album. 

K-12 by Melanie Martinez: I listened to this album a lot last fall and associate a lot of fall-related memories with it, specifically my beloved dorm room. 

Folklore by Taylor Swift: this is another calm album I listen to when I’m working. The lyrics are poetic and flow so well. 

Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon by Pop Smoke: I think I played this album while starting a few psets, so now when I listen to it, I get into the zone and feel productive.  

The Lion King: The Gift: and indeed it is a blessed gift. This album has been out for a while but the only songs I heard were the ones that had music videos for and that was a mistake. I love all of the songs but especially Water, Keys to the Kingdom, and Otherside. I haven’t seen Black is King in full but I have seen clips and analysis YouTube videos, and I know this is nothing short of a masterpiece. I love that Beyoncé shows the color and beauty in African culture and gives credit. 

Hit Different by SZA: I know this isn’t an album but I’m responsible for at least 3% of the views for the music video for this song as well as all hour-long loop videos of Good Days. SZA is… She just is. She exists beyond the limits of language, and I’m not even going to bother to try to capture the essence and beauty that is her voice and beauty. 

Saturn by NAO: She has been my favorite artist for the last few months. She has such a unique voice and style, I don’t even know how to describe it. I just feel at peace listening to her.  

 

CLASSES

Church Lessons: During the summer, I attended two church-related classes on Monday and Thursday evenings. The Monday classes were less-rigid in that there wasn’t a strict lesson plan, unlike the Thursday classes. Monday classes had random but topical sermons and were more conversational. The Thursday classes were kinda rigorous and covered the pillars of the church. We had lectures and took exams.    

Online Courses and Projects: I only started coding when I got to college, and I feel very behind compared to a lot of my peers who have been coding since high school or before. So, I’ve spent some time learning different things independently. But mostly I just really want to learn and I enjoy learning new things without the pressure of grades. 

  • Codecademy: I took their course on git and the command line before my internship because I honestly forgot a lot of it since I didn’t take a coding class last spring. After that, I took their course on Java because my internship required that. Lastly, I took two courses, Building Interactive Websites and D3.js. I’m starting to explore data visualizations more recently, and D3.js is one really cool library for that. I really like Codecademy courses because you get to practice little bits of information, and they explain little details that a lot of beginners would’ve missed otherwise. I initially had access to the pro version Codecademy thanks to their COVID scholarship, but that expired towards the end of June. I liked it so much that I got an annual subscription though it helped that they were having a good student discount 
  • JetBrains Academy: I got an email sometime last spring to sign up for the Academy that JetBrains was launching, and I signed up then, hoping to explore more in the summer. It was good that I signed up then because I had a free account until this January as they have now made this a paid resource, unfortunately (it’s ridiculously priced now). JetBrains is similar to Codecademy in that it has small modules where they explain specific topics and have you answer five questions afterward. On top of this, JetBrains has guided projects that you complete in steps. You first have to complete the modules needed to complete that step before you can read the instructions for that step and work on it. I really, really like JetBrains because most of the modules have really good explanations, and the tracks cover really detailed topics. For instance, I don’t think I would have learned about f-strings or **kwargs in my classes because it’s not absolutely necessary for algorithms or programs, but they’re cool to know and can make your life easier. I completed three projects, two in Python and one in Java. They weren’t terribly challenging per se, but they were good practice for debugging and code logic. I know when I first started coding, I felt so hopeless when my code wouldn’t run in the first few tries and I was quick to give up. Over time I’ve gotten better at persisting as well as seeking out help. 

And this concludes most of what I’ve been doing in my free time since the summer! A lot of this is related to my 2020 resolutions, which I will post a blog about it in the next few weeks. In the meantime, maybe you can watch some of the shows or movies listed and tell me about them in the comments:)

  1. I was able to get a reasonable amount of sleep because I watch most of my videos on 2x speed. My ability to get away with not-so-healthy decisions without facing consequences is why this was not the last time I did this lol. Be better than me back to text
  2. there is some cussing and masturbation is briefly mentioned twice but the good stare-intently-at-the-screen or pretend-you-hear-it trick should avoid awkwardness and/or lecture back to text
  3. I've been trying to curb my addiction for years, and I've watched so many YouTube videos that said many of the things shared in Social Dilemma back to text
  4. YouTuber whose content focuses on productivity, habits, minimalism, life, etc. back to text
  5. The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. back to text