Rebranding *official statement*

After a long time of debating, I have decided to officially rebrand myself to my name Keisha Hsiao. I’ve felt for awhile that although Whimsical Escapes has served me well, I have long since outgrown the name.

It just feels more like me. I believe no descriptive words can truly describe who I am as a person other than my name.

You can find me on my new blog (still under construction) here.


We’re all just noise.

How many photos are you in? No, not the ones you begrudgingly smiled for, where you’re in the foreground. I’m talking about the ones where you’re in the background. Think about it. While you’re at an amusement park, graduation, a tourist in a new location…life is happening all around you. Families taking photos of their family, friends taking photos of friends…selfies even. Those are all the photos you’re in the background of.

How many of them are there? How many people have you simply existed with in the same space? You could look fabulous in some, or you could be making a face so awful that people look at it for the rest of their life, just pointing it out and laughing.

Who are the people in the background of your life? When you look at your photos, everyone is just noise. You don’t really think twice about them, but then if you think really deeply, they all have lives of their own. They have their own tragedies and good times. They’ve all had loss.

It’s strange to think about isn’t it?

An honest in-depth IT (2017) movie review

Before I start off this movie review, let me be totally transparent about myself. I can be quite the horror movie snob, and am generally unimpressed by the newer films released by Hollywood from the past several years. There have been countless remakes, reboots, and sequels, most of which have been horrible and so I have grown to be bitter.

I grew up with the original IT from the 1990s. It absolutely terrified me as a child (excluding the excruciating letdown of the second half), and has grown to be one of my favorite horror movies of all time behind the 1978 Halloween. That being said, I will admit it was hard for me to accept this new IT film, and I didn’t think I would be able to separate the two for a completely objective review, but I managed.

I know that 2017’s IT included more details from the book, but I haven’t read IT in ages, so my memory is a bit foggy. I won’t include any of my review based around this, and will just review it solely from a movie viewer’s point of view. I do plan on re-reading the book again and will post an update once I have the chance.

The book took place in 1958 while the 2017 rendition took place sometime in the 80s. Since the book came out in 1986, I really appreciated this detail to make it into something new. I am interested in how they will make the adult version since it will take place in the mid 2010s.

When the movie began I was immediately pleased by the wonderful acting of Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie) and Jaeden Lieberher (Bill). Their relationship was captured quite nicely, and you could sense the bond that they had. The scene where Georgie was running after S.S. Georgie in his yellow slicker was a nice nod to the original film, it sent me on a little nostalgia trip of my own. However, once Georgie got to the storm drain and Pennywise appeared, it was a complete letdown. The CGI during this scene didn’t carry over well and took away from the potentially horrifying scene that it could’ve been.

The introduction of the rest of the characters I thought was done wonderfully. Beverly (Sophia Lillis) and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) had a really endearing connection from the very beginning and I’m glad they had their own inside jokes happening throughout the movie. I liked seeing that Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) was a little firecracker, Beep Beep Richie (Finn Wolfhard) was as hilarious and unfiltered as ever, Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) was an uncertain nervous wreck just like I remember. I just wish that Mike (Chosen Jacobs) had more of a purpose in the film. He was someone the rest of the group saved from Bowers and his gang, and then he just faded into the background.

Let me break it down. There aren’t any crucial spoilers, just basic character archetypes and backstory that are also (for the most part) in the 90s film. If you haven’t watched the 90s film, it’s been out for 27 years, and the book has been out for 31. There are no excuses!

Beverly was faced with bullying from bitchy teen girls and abuse from her father. The group welcomed her in with open arms and made her feel loved. Bill was the leader of the group ready to avenge his brother Georgie, and was ultimately the motivation behind everyone. Ben, the new kid, was the one who found the history of Derry interesting and did all of the research which was obviously important to the mission. Eddie was learning how to get over his phobias, while also trying to escape the grasp of his Munchausens by proxy mother. His friends of course helped him through his various phobias. Richie, oh that glorious Richie, was the much needed comic relief in the group. Stanley was already a nervous kid, and at times tried being the voice of reason. Then there was Mike, who worked for his grandfather at a slaughterhouse who was also bullied by Bowers. The group of course rescued him, but he just faded into the background when it came to being in the group with everyone else. He had a dark history, but it didn’t really seem to affect him or add any additional character arcs to him in the film…which honestly is too bad because he was one of my favorites in the 90s film, but these films are two different entities so I digress.

Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) was an unhinged, vile character that made you feel uneasy every time he was on screen. I appreciated the sliver of Bowers’ dysfunctional home life that the audience gets to see. It briefly made me feel sorry for the kid, but of course Bowers being Bowers, he lost my sympathy real quick.

There were a couple adult characters that came off really kitschy and corny. Eddie’s mother, Ms. Kaspbrak (Molly Atkinson) was definitely one of them. She not only looked over the top, but her over protectiveness was out of this world as well. The pharmacist, Mr. Keene (Joe Bostick) also came off pretty undesirable. In fact, most of the adults gave a really off putting, creepy, vibe (for obvious reasons). In some instances there were pedophilic undertones too, which adds to the movie in an entirely different way.

The film was so heavily reliant on CGI, which was incredibly disappointing to me. In fact this was one of my biggest gripes. Many of the movies that I’ve seen in just the past 5-10 years have based majority (if not all) of their scares and horror creatures on these computer generated effects. As a viewer this takes me completely out of the moment. Whatever happened to using a lot of special and practical effects? Why do you think there are so many horror films from 20+ years ago that still hold up to this day? They used the talents of makeup artists, set designers, prop makers, and etc. to make things into not just a character, but a work of art. I understand that it probably takes a lot longer to do these things, but isn’t it more important to have quality over quantity? It’s not like it’s an under appreciated art form. I know special effects are still very much loved to this day, otherwise we wouldn’t have YouTubers like Glam & Gore or television shows like Face Off. I just wish in general-not just regarding this film, that things relied on the artistic abilities of  human beings. I will acknowledge that it is incredible we live in a world where we can make wondrous things happen in film with computers. I will also acknowledge that there are plenty of movies out there that have BEAUTIFUL/HORRIFIC CGI effects, it just didn’t work in this one.

I wasn’t receptive over the high frequency of scare scenes either. It honestly felt like the scares were scene after scene after scene after scene. There was rarely any breathing room in between each of them for the scares to fully settle in. That’s something I appreciate about some of the most iconic horror films in history. They slowly build up to a good scare, and it leaves you thinking about it for a tremendously long time. Typing this out now, I can only remember a few of the scenes that were meant to be scary. HOWEVER, some of the moments that Pennywise inflicted on his victims were stunning. Beverly in the bathroom the first time was absolutely wonderful. It was probably one of the most stunning moments (in my opinion) in the film. The lighting, the camera work, the angles. It was like looking at a vibrantly horrific Wes Anderson meets Guillermo Del Toro inspired movie. I also really genuinely liked looking at (the first time) the thing out of Eddie’s nightmares. It was absolutely grotesque looking and I loved every moment of that scene.

I do wish that some of what was effective the first time wasn’t recycled so much in this movie. Pennywise had a tendency to do this Jacob’s Ladderesque, entire body jolting, run. They recycled that quite a few times in the movie, which got less scary as each one went on. Another one was that it seemed like Pennywise was eager to show off his “scary face” as often as he could. The more often you see it, the less provoking it gets.

The one thing that I disliked the most about this film was that they didn’t leave much to your imagination. They showed the aftermath of Georgie and they showed what Pennywise’s dead lights looked like. It could’ve gone without either of those. One thing that I really liked about the original (yes, I know I know, two separate entities) was that they didn’t have to show those moments for it to be disturbing. It’s solely up to the viewer to imagine what the dead lights looked like. Seeing Georgie’s little arm go into the storm drain to retrieve his beloved paper boat, while Pennywise shows off his razor sharp teeth were the only details you needed to paint the picture. To give another example, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. You didn’t have to see Marion Crane get stabbed to death in the shower for it to be impactful. Seeing her blood go down the drain was enough. I feel like a lot of horror movie directors nowadays think they need to spell things out for the audience. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s just unnecessary.

There was a scene with Richie facing Pennywise all on his own. If you pay close attention to it, you can see that Andy Muschietti pays homage to Tim Curry’s version of the clown. I caught myself gleaming at that for the rest of that scene. I’m really pleased with how Muschietti made this film into something of his own vision, but could also acknowledge his film’s predecessor, Tommy Lee Wallace. In fact, I’m really glad he didn’t try to outshine the original one and made this film into something completely new.

Overall, with it’s negatives and all, this film was one of the better horror films that I have seen in quite a long time. Not only was it beautifully filmed, every single one of the Losers’ Club members were incredibly lovable. Although I personally did not find the film to be horrifying or scary (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), I know a lot of people who did. If I could entirely sum up this movie, I would classify it as a feel good horror movie. Teenagers and adults alike can really feel included with this phenomenally relatable group of friends. This film isn’t your standard horror film. Every aspect of it feels like you’re spectating a group of great kids you know in a lovely dream world. Even though they throw in nonstop scares at you, and it can feel repetitive at times, I would definitely give this film an 8.5 out of 10.

I don’t understand the rage.


Earlier today at work (a tourist attraction that costs admission) a man comes in with his two grandchildren and his wife. I said hello to him in my perkiest customer service voice, and he responded with a mumbled “yeah yeah, where’s the bathroom?” As I pointed him in the right direction, he asked his grandkids if they wanted to wait for their grandmother, or also go to the restroom. One of them decided to stay and wait.


The grandmother walked in and we exchanged pleasantries. We didn’t really have much of an interaction, but I could just tell she was a nice human being. She walked down the hall to where the restrooms were, and awaited her husband. I could hear him yelling at her from my desk.

**The total for all 4 of them to walk through my place of employment would’ve been $20.00 total. Let me just state that MAJORITY of the people that walk in here do not complain.**

[From down the hall]


I couldn’t tell if she responded, but as they walked down the hall he turns to me.


Me: Yes, we’ve had admission for the past 10 years or so now.


Me: I understand your frustrations. Unfortunately we do have an admission now.


I honestly debated with myself on whether or not I should explain to him that we are a non-profit and rely on admission to keep us going…but I knew trying to reason with someone like that would lead to nowhere, so I opted not to.

As he yelled at me, I looked to his wife and she looked sad and embarrassed. I also looked to his grandchildren. I think they handled it better than the wife. In fact, they seemed so used to it that they didn’t seem phased at all.

After he was done ranting about things that I cannot and will never be able to change, he went into the gift shop with his family. They were in there for a few minutes, and then when he walked out, asked me how he can go to the back part of our building. I explained to him that it is fenced in and that he would have to pay to go through there. That was when he got incredibly pissed off again.


He mumbled a few expletives to himself. At this point the wife and kids have already left the building and were waiting out front for him. He pushed the automatic door button and the doors slowly began to open. I think he tried so hard to be some kind of angry, intimidating, rage machine…or he was so blinded by his pointless rage, that he ended up walking into the still opening door….which of course infuriated him further.

I watched from the windows as he screamed at his wife, like it was her fault their day was ruined. I watched as his wife tugged on his sleeve, as she pleaded with him to calm down. I watched as he screamed at her some more. I watched as the kids played away from their fighting grandparents…like this were just another day. It broke my heart.


Coming from a person that emphasizes with this family, I simply will never be able to understand this kind of anger and hatred. Why ruin the potential of a great day with your loved ones? Especially for something that no one in a situation like that can change? Why yell at your wife? Why risk the loss of respect from your grandchildren? Why instill fear?

I pity these people. I pity these people for thinking that they’re right in every situation like this. I pity them for not being able to see the misery they’re inflicting on their families. I’m simply baffled that people like this tend to think THEY are the victims when they’re unleashing hell on the people they’re supposed to love.

I just don’t understand why people simply can’t be nice. Damn my naive wishful thinking.


Kiki ❤

Stand By Me

Photo Jun 17, 6 32 06 PM.jpg

Leila (right) and I (left) on our first and last out of state trip together. We’re posing in front of a rental car because it was shiny and new. Please excuse my very awkward fashion sense.

When I was in elementary school I had a strange love/hate relationship with a girl named Leila. She was probably the most vile person I ever had to go to school with.

When I was in the first grade, my father ended up finding a better job. From the good fortune we received, we moved from our Habitat for Humanity house on the south side, to a better part of town into a much nicer home. Due to the move, I of course had to change school districts, which led to me going to a completely different school in the first grade. I was always an incredibly shy child. I was so shy, I couldn’t even talk to some of my close relatives. I’m sure you can imagine the horror that I felt on the first day of my new school.

I remember my mom telling me that after she dropped me off and walked me to my classroom, I clung to her crying. I was devastated that my mom had to leave me, but before I knew it this boy Skyler befriended me. We were inseparable…well, until the day he moved away the summer before sixth grade.

Skyler was a quirky outcast, and I was this racially ambiguous shy kid, still unsure of where I belonged in the world. We were a perfect pair, but we were also perfect targets for Leila. There was also a mousey girl in my first grade class named Kelly. Kelly and Leila were best friends. Leila was the stronger of the two personalities, so naturally she bossed Kelly around. The two always reminded me of Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in The Shining. One was a loud, intimidating, person you didn’t want to get angry. The other was so timid, if a pin dropped, it would startle her because she always tried not to not step on any toes.

That being said, Leila was a bully. She wasn’t just awful to Skyler and I, she was a hellion to everyone she’s ever encountered. She knew every soul crushing insult in the book, and she wasn’t afraid to get physical. It was almost as if she fed on causing trouble and loved it when people feared her. Almost as if she relied on that control in her life.

For the most part, Skyler was the only person I played with during recess. I did however, have two other friends that were also in my class. Renee and Bri. They were two feisty girls that that didn’t take crap from anyone. I don’t know why they chose me to be their friend, but they were always my protectors that year, especially at recess.

There was this one particular time where I was on the slide, keeping to my close knit circle. Leila and Kelly approached me, and of course Leila was the instigator. I can’t remember all the details, but I remember her wanting to get in my face. Renee and Bri immediately started yelling at her, screaming at her to leave me alone. Of course, since Leila was outnumbered in extroverts, she backed off. It was like this for quite some time.

I always liked Kelly, even though she was friends with the person that harassed me almost daily. Since Leila wasn’t in our first grade class, that gave Kelly and I the chance to bond. Somehow, during my elementary school years, Leila warmed up to me and we became friends. I suspect it was Kelly’s doing. Even though Kelly and Leila were now my friends, Leila was still unpleasant to us. We put up with it though. Most likely due to fear and our lack of a backbone.

[FF >> to the 4th/5th grade]

It was a sweltering summer day during Memorial Day weekend. Leila invited me to spend the night at her house, which I was very much looking forward to. Her house was less strict than my house was (and they had cable!). Her dad was never really home, which was fine by me because whenever he was around, the atmosphere changed and made the house feel uneasy. Her mother however, was always around and I absolutely adored her.

The company Leila’s dad worked for always rented out a section of one of the facilities on the property of the local swimming pool/park. They had live music, free food, and employees got to invite their friends and families to come swim for free. This particular year Leila invited me, so I was beyond stoked to go.

Throughout that day we swam at every single pool (there were three), went on the bumper boats, and went down various slides. Eventually we went to reapply our sunscreen. We saw her mother frantically walking towards us. She approached us as calmly as possible, and told us that we had to get into the car immediately. I think Leila already suspected what was going on. I on the other hand was completely oblivious.

We rushed outside, and I noticed all four tires on their maroon 1980s Buick had been slashed. Even with the now four useless tires, we got into the car and Leila’s mother drove slowly back to their house (which was close by). Much of that day is a blur, but I remember Leila and I rushing into her room. She had a white metal framed day bed in front of one of her bedroom windows that faced the backyard next to their garage. We were crouched by her bed, peeking out the bedroom window. Her mother was waiting outside.

Leila revealed to me that her dad must’ve been drunk again, and when he gets drunk he sometimes gets violent. Part of me wasn’t completely surprised. When her dad was home he wasn’t always sober. If ever. I will never forget the concern in her eyes, not for herself, but for me. I think it was the first time she was genuinely kind to me.

She told me,

“Keisha, if my dad comes into the room I want you to crawl through the window and run to the garage. Grab my bicycle and ride it to the church down the street and get help. Have the police come”.

The fact that she was willing to put herself in harm’s way, is one of the most incredible things anyone has ever done for me. Especially someone at such a young age. It is one of the truest acts of kindness that I’ve experienced that I will genuinely never forget.

Thankfully, that scenario never had to happen. Unfortunately, a terrible situation did arise. While her mom waited outside for what seemed like hours, (but was most likely 30 minutes maximum) her dad showed up. He was visibly drunk. From here it gets hazy, but I’m pretty sure Leila’s parents were arguing in the driveway next to the garage. That’s when I witnessed her father punch Leila’s mother in the mouth. I was horrified, and I’m positive Leila was too…even though it’s likely she has witnessed domestic violence in her household before.

She grabbed the pink Pocahontas blanket that laid on her bed, and we hid under it.

We sat in silence.

From that moment on I saw Leila in a different light. I no longer saw her as a bully, or as Jack from The Shining. I saw her as a person that was so angry because of the home life she endured. Being so young, children don’t really think they can talk to anyone about it. I don’t think she had any other outlet than to just explode. Granted, it wasn’t an outlet she should’ve chosen, but I no longer blamed her. In fact, I understood her better. My heart hurt for her.

Even though I wished she didn’t have to endure that life, I’m grateful that I could be there for her that day and she didn’t have to go it alone.

I guess my point in telling this story about a childhood friend, is that even the meanest of people can have their layers washed away. They have their reasons, and I think it’s important that we as people try to understand one another. Even if a person is incredibly angry and rude, there must be a reason, and I believe there’s always hope for people.

If anyone is wondering about Leila, sometime during the sixth grade she moved to a different part of the state with her mother. I got to see her the summer after, and she was a completely different person. She was happier, made a lot of friends, and joined a lot of extracurriculars. Since then, I only got to see her once more a few years ago. She’s happily married and has a great job. She has even traveled abroad quite a bit. Her mother is also doing quite well.

There is always light within the darkness, and I’m glad she found hers.


Kiki ❤

Always mourning.

Photo credit: Wikicommons: A.Miskovsk

I’m in a constant state of mourning, and I’m not sure how to feel about it. I’m not mourning over the loss of a person. I’m mourning the loss of time, mourning for the past. There are so many things that I miss…people, experiences, the way people lived in certain periods of my life (the 90s). It might sound like I’m afraid of change, but I can guarantee you that I’m not. I just miss those blissful nostalgic feelings that I can’t relive.

I have my photos and my home videos that I can look back on. I just wish I could physically…or completely mentally live it all again. As if I’m an outsider looking in, watching my memories as if I were in some kind of virtual reality world.

You know how sometimes you have the best sleep of your life, and in those moments you have some of the greatest dreams? Sometimes I wish I could re-visit these moments in my dreams…have my own version of San Junipero. There are so many things I remember and my friends and family don’t, and vice versa. I wish I could remember it all. The good and the bad.

I think that’s why I’m so passionate about photography and filmography. I want to document my life so I can remember things in the future. I love journaling my memories as they happen too. It’s always nice to read back on them. Even long after I die, my memories will in a way live on. Maybe be passed on from generations to generations. That’s something I’m very grateful for the technology we have no. It’s easier to preserve memories for other people. We have more than just stories now. I’ll get more into how times have changed in another post.

Before any of you worry, I’m here to assure you that I’m okay. I just think too much.


Kiki ❤




Just a few moments ago, an elderly gentleman came into my work place. He asked me how my day was, and as an automatic response I told him that I was fine. In return, I asked him how he was.

I expected to get a basic response back, but he told me that he was recovering from colon cancer and recently had his colon removed. He then lifted his shirt to show me the recent scar from his surgery. At first, I felt uncomfortable knowing such intimate detail about this man, but realized that he was just lonely and needed someone to tell his troubles to, so I listened.

He continued to tell me that colon cancer is what killed his mother, and that it upsets him knowing that there are so many people out there with cancer that don’t even know it. He said if it had not been for him feeling bad and deciding to get it checked out, he wouldn’t be alive. He had stoic, yet sad eyes. Even with all of his hardships, he was grateful about everything he has in his life.

His ride had to go several hours up North to visit her mother, so he had no way to get home. He was ashamed to ask, but he wanted to know if I had $0.75 so he could take the bus back. I gave him some money to get home, and that’s when he asked me if I was Indian. I wasn’t sure how to handle this question because being interracial I have endured some racism in my life, so on the defense I said “…no..I’m half Chinese”. He showed me his dreamcatcher necklace, and it turns out he’s part Cherokee and just wanted to know because I seemed like a nice person.

That was the end of that, and he walked away. I hope he has the best of luck with life in the future.