LIFE UPDATES

Ah, it’s good to be free. School is over. Weeks of freedom are ahead, for some. For me, I will be going to USC for a Publishing Workshop with the LARB (The Los Angeles Review of Books) for a whole month, starting next week, which is—in its own way—a sort of freedom. But, that does mean dubious things for my free time. I will be busy ALL day with the workshop, pretty much from sun up till past dinner, with speakers and so on.

Now, you may wonder why exactly I am bringing this up. I mean…cool, that’s my life right? Well, the main reason I am bringing it up is because I am uncertain how much free time I will have to work on this blog. To be as consistent as possible, I have been doing one entry per day, every day of the week, for over a year now. That’s quite a bit of time, and I have loved doing so—it has helped me grow as a writer and as a person. But at this workshop I will be doing just that—growing and developing. Which means that I will already be doing what I wanted to do with this blog.

Of course, I don’t PLAN to be going away. If I can find the time, I will be writing daily still. But I might miss a couple days. And I don’t want anyone who reads my work daily to be worried. Normally I can plan out exactly when I will have time to write a post ahead of time to do so (see last year’s vacation posts), but this year I was caught up with graduation and other things, and couldn’t prewrite a month of posts. Plus, that’s less fun.

Anyways, I figured I could take today, my slow day, to post an update about the future, and update you on my life. I went to Las Vegas last weekend for a short vacation, which was super fun (no I didn’t go to EDC, but I certainly dealt with the traffic on the way home). We went to the Peppermill twice, which was incredible, and had Brazilian…BBQ? All you can eat food. It was amazing. I ate WAY too much. I also finished in the top 350 of a 4000-person tournament I played in, which was a fun experience, albeit not how I would have adored.

Well, that was my week. Let me know how you are spending your first few weeks of summer in the comments below!

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WE ALL FLOAT DOWN HERE

I have always been interested in why it is that we like to see obscure, strange, and often grotesque images. Think about it. Have you ever seen a picture (or video) in which you had a strong guttural reaction to look away, but at the same time felt you had to keep looking? I mean, there is a cliché aspect to it when people say “I couldn’t look away,” but that was born out of something very real.

I have never been a big believer in any reality to mythology, but the stories are something that I have always found to be entertaining. Cyclopes’, gods, frost giants…they all add this sense of awe and wonder to an otherwise kind of boring life. I mean, think of all the times you have sat in front of a movie screen, and watched an action-type movie. Or a horror movie. Horror movies are a great example of something that gets the blood flowing (pun intended). I just watched the original “Stephen King’s It” this weekend, and Tim Curry as Pennywise was really quite a show. I mean, the movie has a real…cheesy 80’s vibe to it nowadays (which I guess it technically a 90’s vibe, since it released in 1990, but still). There is a reason “It” is getting a remake, and that’s because the unknown and the unreal is entertaining! And it looks SO SCARY in the trailer (which, if you somehow haven’t seen yet, you should go click that link and do).

Of course, if we’re not careful, I’ll derail this conversation into a movie critique post (though if you would want me to do that sometime in the future, let me know. I’m down for anything), since that is what we love about It. Not the plot twist at the very end about how its all a…oh wait some of you may not have seen it. But we love Pennywise. The creepy clown that fuels our adrenaline (and our nightmares). Back in the day, that was why people told scary stories around the campfire, or snuck up on unsuspecting friends to give them a frighten. It makes people feel alive to have their heart racing and their breath caught at the back of their throat. Not just lounging around, listening to repeated Louis C.K. albums all afternoon and evening (which I may or may not have done a few times before). And sure, maybe too much of that would cause a heart attack or something, but every once in a while is good for you. Exercise those reflexes, get used to the adrenaline rush, and maybe you’ll float too. 😉

What do you think? Do you like that rush of adrenaline? Is it something we should avoid? Let me know!

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A LETTER FROM MY FORMER SELF

I received a letter from myself the other day. My high school biology teacher had my entire class write a letter to ourselves for our last assignment as seniors back then, which she then mailed out during these last few weeks of college (Yay! I’m graduating). Reading (or I guess technically rereading) that letter left me with a lot of mixed feelings. At the time I wrote it, I didn’t really know where life was taking me. I knew I was going to Cal Poly Pomona, though it was not my first choice of schools, and I knew I was in love with my (now ex) girlfriend. That was about it. I didn’t know I was going to be interested in writing. I didn’t know I would be working two jobs. I didn’t know that the grass really is greener from a distance than it is up close.

But all that aside, here we are today. I once again have no idea where I am going, or what I am doing. In some ways I have even less of a grasp on reality than I did then. Yet I know a lot more today than I did four years ago. I find it curious that, for all this reminiscing, the problems of my life are completely different. In that letter, I wrote about my love interest, my issues with my relationships, and my certainty of my own greatness. Today, I would write about the monotony of daily activities, the debilitating incapability that my generation faces, and the omnipresent desire (and impossibility) of being an individual in an ever-growing social world.

I recently watched an interview with Morgan Freeman, where he was asked if race plays a role in succeeding in one’s dreams in the present. He said no, which I found interesting, because in a way he is correct. It is true that, if you really try hard enough, eventually something is going to work. But at the same time, I’ve been at this blogging thing for a year, and I have only found minor success. Of course, I am a straight, white male. But to say race has no role in success is a bit unfair, don’t you agree? I mean, he said “we are proof” that race is not a major role player, which to me seems a little short sighted. There are only so many roles in Hollywood available, much like how there are only so many spaces available on a basketball team. To say someone can be a part of that miniscule percent of successful black actors “if they try hard enough” seems like a bit of a load to me. We can’t have 3 billion fulltime actors. It simply wouldn’t be sustainable. We would starve to death.

But success does seem like it is within all of our grasps if we can redefine success for ourselves. Perhaps success isn’t being famous, or accruing a fortune, but instead perhaps it is simply being happy with life. And while for many of us, that seems like it isn’t somewhere we are at currently, it is somewhere that we can strive to get to. Ok. Hopefully this somewhat sappy story has helped you in some way (I’m sure it has been a nice form of therapy for me somehow). Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

——

 

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TONE IN LITERATURE AND LIFE

From time to time, my father and I talk about a variety of subjects. Anything from alcohol, to weight lifting, to…well, really anything. Yesterday, my dad finished reading Honored Enemy, a book by a (slightly) lesser-known fantasy author: Raymond E. Feist (at least, compared to George R.R. Martin), and we were considering it in comparison to the Game of Thrones series (yeah I know it’s called A Song of Fire and Ice officially, but everyone calls it Game of Thrones). My dad asserted that Feist’s characters were more hopeful, which I thought was an interesting perspective, since at many times throughout his book, they knowingly face and fear certain doom.

To contrast, the characters in Game of Thrones, while often times very dire (I mean, the Stark’s house words are “Winter is Coming,” which is indicative of a fear of death, rather than an enjoyment with life) also hold a sense of hopefulness at various points, it just doesn’t seem hopeful. Think about it. Tyrion is hopeful in his own way—in the sense that he thinks he can overcome pretty much anything with his own wit. Renly is hopeful in a way too. He is very fun loving, and clearly represents some amount of goodness in the world. Vars, in his own way, is hopeful that things can go well, and Littlefinger is hopeful in his own schemes. Though I would categorically say that Game of Thrones is far less hopeful than most books.

Which takes us to the point of this post! Tone! The whole tone of the story frames the perspective it takes. And I like to think of stories as an allegory for life. This one is that the tone you take can change how you look at life. If everything you think is hopeless, then the world will seem that much darker. But if you can look at the things around you, and find some greatness in it, suddenly you might be able to enjoy it a bit more—even in dire straights.

Alright, well I’ll leave it a bit shorter today, but don’t forget that life can be really great, just as books can be really great, even if there are many points where the world seems too big, and the battles you are fighting seem hopeless. Let me know what your thoughts are on the subject. Is life better when we view it as better? Or does the pessimism lead to better successes in happiness?

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RUSH TO THE AIRPORT

I was trying to decide what to talk about today, and then I realized I was super short on time (in fact, I’m typing this in the car as my superior drives us to a meeting)! Which gave me an interesting topic for discussion: rushing. Have you ever rushed? Probably. If not in your adult life, likely as a child your family rushed you at some point, right? And rushing is absolutely the most stressful thing you can experience in the moment.

I have a story to provide an example. My family had decided to go to Montana for vacation, which would end up being an absolute blast. We got up early, packed our bags, and left for LAX. Now, if you’ve ever driven to LAX before, you know how much of a pain that trip is. Regardless, we were about halfway there, and were running just fine on time, when suddenly I look back and realize my suitcase was not packed along with everything else. And that’s got all my clothes in it. For the whole trip. So we turn around, drive the half distance we were out back to our house, and get my bag. At this point, our plane leaves in an hour and a half, and it’s a forty-five minute drive there AT BEST. We’re speeding and bobbing through traffic, have to park in the expensive parking at the airport, and run into the lobby. And the receptionist chides us for being late, and says theres a chance that we, or our luggage, will not make the flight. But we insist, and she lets our bags through their machinery, and we take off toward the security checks. We wait in line, with everyone tapping their feet and what not.

Tick-tock tick-tock. Every minute feels like and hour, and we finally get through the security line and sprint to our loading zone. They’ve already called finally loading, and when I get to the lady taking tickets, she looks as though she were just about to turn away from the desk to close the door to the plane. Luckily for us, she lets us on, and everything worked out. BUT that was exceptionally stressful. And if you’ve ever experienced something stressful like this, you probably know the symptoms. A minor headache, increased heart rate, the feeling that you want to snap at anyone who slights you, even in the smallest way.

So how do you control that? Well, it can be hard, but the best way is to stay calm. Don’t tell yourself to stay calm, because that literally never works (have you every TRIED to relax?! It’s a paradox). Talk yourself through the logic of the scenario, and accept that not everything works out. I mean, we were running through an airport at full speed. Security could have tackled us out of nowhere, or shot us. They don’t know the situation. We could have gotten stuck in traffic, or the plane could have left on time. Or that lady that took our bags could have not let us on the plane. But we were lucky, a little insistent, and it all worked out.

Do you have any tips to dealing with rushing when it happens? Let me know!

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CONDITIONAL LOVE

It seems like a good day to talk about family. Everyone has family struggles in their life. Bad parents. Bad children. Bad siblings. None of the above…the absence of family is still a family struggle, right? But we often don’t talk about how important family is to the general scheme of our lives. Which is perhaps because we take them more for granted than we should. I certainly do.

Then again, family can really be a difficult thing to understand. People love to throw around the term “unconditional love,” which I don’t really understand. I mean, I love my family—both my immediate family and the vast majority of my extended family. But I don’t think I could call love unconditional. I mean, people often say “I love you unconditionally” to their spouse, but if they caught that spouse out with three hookers for a week long cocaine binge, they probably wouldn’t find it in their heart to continue loving them. Maybe. But probably not.

Likewise, family has a similar conundrum, right? We all have that one sibling that gets on our nerves (if we have siblings), but that doesn’t mean we have to cast them out, right? But at what point is the breaking point?

Let’s say they turn their back on everything their family stands for. Like a man from a Jewish family renouncing his faith and joining the Neo-Nazi party. Is that far enough? If love were unconditional, no. How about being betrayed by someone because that person was so desperate in their life, they decided it was worth punishing their family as some sort of…extended blame for their own problems? How about then?

What if a family member goes insane and starts murdering people without justification or anything? As loosely defined as it is, these technically fall under “conditional love.” Not murdering people seems like a pretty reasonable condition to me. But like…not loving someone because they didn’t share their milkshake with you would not be quite so reasonable.

Which leaves me curious about why we choose to use words like “unconditional love” when discussing our relationship to our family. I mean, it might have to do with the hyperbolic nature of human kind, and that’s perfectly plausible…but it is not that entertaining. I think it might have to do with the fickleness of love in the first place. Love, like all emotions, is not entirely sustainable. It ebbs and flows. Think about it. If every minute of every day you were desperately in love with someone, you’d probably kill yourself. Just like if you were constantly enraged with everyone. Or, if not, you might grow bored of them. Pizza is great, but eating the same pizza every day can grow a bit stale. Maybe it takes a week, maybe it takes a month. Maybe it even takes twenty years.

But we don’t eat pizza every day. We have other things. And like with food, we experience other emotions. And those other emotions impact the ones we currently feel. One might say they love you unconditionally, and mean it at that moment. But over time, that love fades and becomes conditional, simply because that’s how emotions work, no? Does that make sense? Let me know what you think in the comments.

——

 

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QUALITY ON THE ROAD

OK, so today I’m going to talk about Quality a bit. If you didn’t hear, Robert M. Pirsig, the author of one of my favorite books, died yesterday. His book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, has been one of the most inspiring books for me as a human being, and I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t already read it.

But to honor Pirsig’s classic book-and really his struggle in general, I wanted to talk about Quality for my discussion today. Since readers my not have read his book, I’ll do a quick overview of the concept. Quality is something we all know, but also have trouble defining. When someone says “that’s a real quality piece of artwork” we know what they mean, but if we try to go much further than that, things get fuzzy. Sure, it might be the colors, it might be the style, or it might be the references within the artwork itself that make it quality work. Or maybe it’s the story the picture tells; or maybe it’s all of these things put together. But if you go searching, there’s no doubt that someone out there will find the painting disagreeable. Thus, quality is entirely up to opinion, and so defining it becomes something nearly impossible. Simply saying that “quality is quality” isn’t nearly satisfying for our human minds, but that’s pretty much what it is.

Pirsig gets into talking about how quality could be seen as goodness, and the level of how “good” something is (good as in well done, rather than good as in positive). But sometimes something is a quality piece of work because it is not “good.” Think of something by Jackson Polluck, or Picasso. Definitely not necessarily “good” work by the “quality standards” that had been set prior to them, but still clearly quality artwork was produced by them. They revolutionized aspects of art entirely. Lets go even further, and look at children’s paintings. Are they quality pieces of work? Why and/or why not? Because they don’t make it to the hallways of an art exhibit?

These are the kinds of questions that Pirsig asked in his books, on a much more massive scale. He went against the grain in a time where going against the grain could and often did lead to electro-shock “therapy,” and in doing so, he revolutionized an entire generation of thought. Which is wonderful! What do you think? Have you even heard of him? Is quality so obscure? Let me know your thoughts!

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TALKING ABOUT THE VOID

Do you ever hear the aching call of the black void, so calm and so quiet, yet full of remorse and desperation? With the controversy over 13 Reasons Why, as well as the general sense of nihilism among many of my Millennial counterparts, I figured I should take a short time to talk about it, since I shared in an interesting conversation about “the darkness” with someone recently.

As I and others of my age group grow into adults, we become more and more aware of our place in the world…as tiny specks. One in seven billion. It is hard to feel special when the numbers are so stacked against us, even if we are the biggest living generation around. The sense of hopelessness and inability to succeed seeps into our everyday life—which in the grand scheme of things is ironic, since Millennials are better off than most generations that the United States has experienced, in terms of upbringing and living conditions (though that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Saying someone with a DVD player is more well off than someone with a VHS player is negligible when neither has a television). I think this is an apt reason for why Millennials are often considered entitled, but I don’t really want to rehash an argument that boils down to opinion and chosen perspectives, so that’s all I will say on that.

What I do want to talk about is the sense of hopelessness; the so-called “void” people often reference. Maybe it is because we have (sort of) normalized feelings of depression, enough to where people can speak more openly about it, but I don’t know. I think perhaps the actual depression might be hidden somewhere else. Regardless, this void is something we (Millennials) talk about together. The general sense of “I don’t want to adult” or “everyday is awful.” First of all, it isn’t the first time this has happened—every generation goes through struggles becoming an adult, Millennials are just a little later to the party.

BUT, this sense of hopelessness also is a call for unity and common ground. I can go up to anyone in my school and show them a meme about “struggles” or “#adulting” or “anxiety and depression” and they will get it—half of them will probably openly admit the text lingo “same”—which means “I feel the same way.” Which, I think, in some ways provides avenues for happiness down the line. This is because, in theory, life will not always be so daunting. At some point we will all come together with our common experiences and have one united voice. It also helps break down the barriers that other generations have experienced—race, sex, romantic inclinations, etc…they all pale in comparison to the feeling of “the void” (I am hopeful the same is true for class, but we shall see).

Anyways, those are just my thoughts on the struggle that many of the blossoming youth in America are dealing with. Do you agree or disagree? Have further thoughts of opinions? Let me know!

——

 

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INTERSECTING PERSPECTIVES

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I have been thinking about perspective quite a bit over the last couple days, mostly after listening to Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” and then the follow up criticism a few of my friends have shared over Facebook. Because there was some division between my interpretation, and the interpretation given in the criticism, I’ve spent all morning pondering which perspective is closer to the mark.

So here’s the divisive lines:

 

I’m so fuckin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop

Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor

Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks

Still will take you down right on your mama’s couch in Polo socks, ayy

 

Make sure you watch at least this part of the video, so that you have some context for what the imagery displayed was (it’s at 1:43 minutes). What was your perspective on these lyrics? Are they sexist? I mean, an argument against Photoshop, in favor of a natural look isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, it is still telling women how to dress and looks, assuming this addresses women in the first place.

Now that you’ve gathered your thoughts on this set of lines, let me tell you the interpretations I have been struggling with. First of all, there’s the perspective that applies these lines to all women—as in, this is Lamar’s expectation for women, and even if he’s arguing against the mainstream media’s presentation of women, it is still narrow minded and does not actually make a difference. Women should be empowered for whatever decision they make—whether it is being all natural, getting plastic surgery, or whatever—rather than be judged as simply objects by men (and society). This isn’t an unfair assertion. I mean, look at the last line. It directly addresses the “you,” which can pretty safely be assumed to be women, speaking that Lamar is pretty clearly heterosexually inclined.

The other interpretation goes simultaneously less far and further. It stops at “he’s arguing against the mainstream media.” The allusion to Richard Pryor, an old, anti-establishment comedian, as well as the statement about Photoshop, indicates that his first three lines of this segment are perhaps not addressing women, but instead addressing those who portray women. Instead, he asserts that what people care about is the real look of a woman, over the superfluous tendencies the media puts upon them. It isn’t entirely a progressive view, since it does still objectify women to an extent, but it is less “anti-woman” through this perspective than through the previous one.

The video adds a significant amount of depth to the lyrics as well, showing the two faces of a woman—one apparently done up and whitened, in the way the media often prefers, the other lacking make-up, and so on. I’ve chosen to withhold which perspective is mine, and which is from Facebook, because I don’t want my personal perspective swaying you, the reader, one way or another. The irony is that sometimes even the most parallel perspectives will cross lines in the details. That’s what, in many ways, occurs here. But that’s why it is a discussion. Let me know your perspective in the comments!

——

 

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SCIENCE OR ART?

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What’s more important to humanity: Science or Art? This is the type of question that polarizes peoples’ thinking. Science provides us avenues to a better life (or rather, a more efficient life, since it’s unclear that our species as a whole is happier now than it was before the industrial revolution). Art, on the other hand, gives us avenues to a more substantive life. Today I’m going to give you an argument for both, since there are many ways in which the two categories today do not overlap (and, of course, some where they do).

Let’s start with science, because I think in the modern era of iPhones, the Internet, mass food production, and other forms of scientific technologies, that’s the obvious “more important” choice. Let’s look at what science has given us. Well, math, so currency, exchange of goods, basic foresight into planning our needs. Science also gives us physics, biology, medicine, engineering, and a whole slew of different abilities. Some aspects of architecture require scientific precision. Pick up any object around you, and ask yourself if it would have been doable without some form of scientific knowledge. Seriously. Can you find one? Some of you may have picked up your children, but even your children probably required some sort of hospital care. Or their cloths required special fabrics to prevent rashes, or their diapers are made in a way that prevents leaking…the list goes on.

There’s even science to art. Go look at any classical artwork. Try Googling “Enlightenment Artwork.” It’s precise, and much less “imaginative” as, say, something by Jackson Pollock. Which isn’t to say it’s bad artwork, but it certainly makes art…different. Let’s look at literary artwork and “science.” Take Shakespeare’s Love Sonnets—any one of them. They are constrained to the form of iambic pentameter, with 14 lines that alternate end rhymes every four lines, with the last two lines rhyming with each other (if you’re adept in rhyme schemes, that ABABCDCDEFEFGG). It’s kind of a scientific way of creating a poem, right? Science gives life structure. It takes the chaos of the world, and makes it into something understandable, which, in many ways, is beautiful in and of itself.

Of course, if you’re anything like me, you probably have also seen a lot of flaws in science that are undone by artwork. Take spirituality. Science sort of defeats spirituality, doesn’t it? I mean, science is in many ways a secular idea (not all, I know), which is why the church has often fought tooth and nail for its ideas against scientific progress. In that way, science is grounding. To contrast, art elevates thinking in many ways. Art is a form of flight in a world of grounded people. Isn’t that why we love books so much? They let us escape the doldrums of our world. I mean, people literally swear their lives on a book, and practice their lives around what the words in it say.

I spoke about how science encapsulated art, but art also encapsulates science. Let’s use engineering as an example. Engineering is what builds industry, yet the driving force behind it is imagination. It’s an artistic rendering of an idea. Think of Disneyland, and all the engineering that had to be done to make it work. Yet we don’t see Disneyland as some hulking behemoth of industry. Instead, we see it as a magical image of wonder made into real objects. The truth is, simply being efficient does not captivate a human audience. Rather, we have a need to be thrilled, which is why fireworks are made more and more beautiful ever year, rather than simply bigger and louder.

But of course, they both have value. I mean, it’s not like the world functions very well without one or the other. Which do you think is more valuable? Let me know in the comments!

——

 

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