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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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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THE KEYHOLE (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Ancestry

The tree was standing

Long before we came to be

And will be after.

 

Government

For all our titles

We still don’t seem to know who

Is really in charge.

 

The End of Atlas

And he broke his back

After he put all that weight

On tired shoulders.

 

The Keyhole

Look through the keyhole.

But not too close, because it

Might be looking back.

 

Entropy

Now, pull the alarm

And watch as all their order

Turns into chaos.

——

 

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APPEASEMENT

People take life

Too seriously.

 

They turn a two-dollar

Discrepancy

Into a two hour

Discussion.

Sure, I was late.

Give me a break,

I made a mistake,

Get over it.

 

It’s not like I haven’t

Sacrificed before;

Gone on late lunches,

Passed up breaks,

And

Strained muscles

Before.

 

But they don’t care

About the sacrifices you’ve made.

They only care

For the hours you’re paid.

 

They only care

That you accommodate their whim,

Paying no mind

To the pain in your hymn.

 

And the minute you

Stand up

To speak up for yourself

They immediately make up

An excuse

For their self.

 

And when all’s

Said and done,

A good worker knows,

That instead of

Escalating

The problem to blows.

It’s easier to quit

And start again

Than it is to remit

And keep appeasing them.

——

 

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WISE WORDS (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Writing

I am a writer

And I talk about problems.

I think I’m cliché.

 

My Room

My room’s a forest

Of cloths and books and papers.

Tread lightly alone.

 

As Long As…

Trust me, you’re safe here.

As long as you obey me

And do as I say.

 

Trophy Shelf

Look at my trophies:

The greatness of childhood,

Now covered in dust.

 

Wise Words

Grandfather, help me.

I feel I’ve lost my way.

Then make a new one.

——

 

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FEAR VS. LOVE

Hello everyone,

 

Today I wanted to talk to you all about power. I have been watching House of Cards over the weekend, because I was deathly sick with something, and was bedridden pretty much the whole time. Anyways, if you have not seen it, House of Cards is a show about a politician named Frank Underwood, who uses his political prowess to rise to power, subverting the traditional means of democracy. He uses anything from intimidation to extortion to get what he wants. When people do not give him what he wants, he will not hesitate to take them out. That’s the basic idea of the show.

Now, these are all traits of a dictator, and they are pretty static concepts when said broadly (like I just did). Let’s take the famous Machiavellian quote “it is better to be feared than loved” and consider it for a moment. It’s certainly true, right? At least, for a leader. Beowulf is a famous example, who was loved by his countrymen but also, deep down, feared as well. Seriously, in the story of Beowulf, kingdoms much bigger than his refused to challenge his because he was so feared. There are many literary examples of this, but even historically it’s true as well. Stalin is perhaps the best example of fear. Stalin was an awful guy who ruled with an iron fist, but nobody questioned his title, even though it was undeserved. Those who did…well…added to the death count.

Of course, fear fails. Not immediately, but eventually. Nearly every revolution was born because someone stopped being afraid. Or rather, many someones. Eventually, someone slips through the cracks, and starts a movements that ends the regime. Whether another regime replaces that regime is a different story, but it can be said that the power of one individual runs out eventually, no matter how much they are feared.

Love, on the other hand, is ineffective for individual leaders. Certainly, it is good if a monarchy is loved, because there is less likelihood for the want of a revolution, but it is impossible for a monarch to please everyone. It’s part of why presidential approval ratings are typically not in the nineties. However, it is good for leaders to be loved in communal societies. When the focus is not on the one, but rather the collective, then the need for love increases. Typically, these societies do not have one individual “king,” and if they do have some sort of leader, that leader is not considered superior to their group. Rather, these groups need love because they need to be able to work together and discuss, constructively, the different avenues to success. Without discussion, no progress would be made.

I bring this up because we live in extremely divisive times. It seems that nobody wants to sit down and talk to each other, rather they rally behind their leader of choice, and hope to dominate the opposition. Which is unfortunate, because I think what made America great is the community. The idea that we can be individuals, but united by a single goal. Not a person, but a goal: each other. That’s something I think we need to get back to.

——

 

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GIVING CRITICISM

Hello everyone,

It’s been a little while since I took the time to be a “normal” blog and give those little updates on life that have literally no impact on the world whatsoever (don’t worry, more creative work will be back tomorrow). Which is why I am not going to talk about how I finished all my graduate school applications recently, how stressful it’s been, etc, etc, etc (wait but that’s what you just did Cassady…). Instead, I wanted to talk about something that has not happened to me before. Someone who had been reading my blog asked me for advice. Now, obviously I am a busy person—we all are. But I took the time to check out a bit of their work and give them constructive criticism. Which I like to think I am decent at giving, and I know a lot of people who are not very good at it. So I wanted to discuss it.

One of my good friends is a person who doesn’t know how to give criticism. He will  say things like “that’s bad” or “I don’t like how this looks at all.” And that’s fine if a person is secure with their work, but let’s be honest, how many of us really feel completely secure with our work? Especially when we are just starting off? Probably not that many of us. I know that I, personally, was exceptionally afraid to show people any of my writing when I first began doing it, and even before that, I was afraid to write because I felt like I myself would be doing a bad job. If someone had criticized me like my friend does right away, there’s a good chance I would not have gone forward with my writing.

Certainly, this is “my fault.” No individual should stop someone from achieving his or her dreams. But that’s not reality. Humans value other opinions—it’s the reason we ask people for advice on relationship, even if they have a terrible track record in them. It’s true that the only way to improve is to get criticism, but when we criticize it can be done in a better way. One way I like to do this is through a “compliment sandwich.” Going back to my original scenario, this blogger asked me to take a look at their work in the comments of one of my posts. That takes some guts, but they sounded rather shy about it. So I took a look, and I found a few things. First of all, they had a great basis for their work. Their concepts were really personal and relatable, which is a solid bedrock for writing. That said, they looked like they had rushed through their writing. Which we all do. I do it. Professionals do it. It’s not a big deal. That’s why people hire editors. But it did take away from their overall message, and they need to correct it to make their work as good as they envision it to be. So I pointed out the positives, then the negatives, to reinforce that they were doing good work but that it needed improvement, and then finished up with a reminder of those positives. Not excessively-if that is done, then the person isn’t going to take the criticism seriously. But this does allow for a friendly way to express the needed improvement. If someone, especially a stranger (or an acquaintance that isn’t very close), asks for advice, it means they value the opinion of the person they are asking, and to shoot them down will only cause self-doubt. It makes the matter more personal than it really is.

What do you think? This approach can vary in impact depending on the context of the discussion. Check out this article for some areas where this technique doesn’t work. Do you have any techniques you use to give constructive criticism? Let me know!

——

 

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DEAN’S ORDER

Dean’s Order PT. 1

Venti, decaf, hot

Skinny mocha with no foam

And something for you.

 

Dean’s Order PT. 2

Line is out the door

And the rain is pouring down.

What took you so long?

 

Dean’s Order PT. 3

Since you took so long

I will need you to stay late

To answer the phones.

 

Dean’s Order PT. 4

Go get the mail

They said there was a package

Labeled for my use.

 

Dean’s Order PT. 5

Thank you for your work

But we are letting you go.

Go clean out your desk.

——

 

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DIGGING DEEPER

Hello everyone,

 

It’s been a while since I wrote a personal discussion of things as opposed to something creative, but here we go for a spin. Just a few days ago I crossed the two hundred post mark on this blog…which I only knew about because WordPress notified me. Anyways, that got me a tad bit excited. I mean, that’s a lot of writing. I usually spend between 30 minutes to an hour on each on, which means I’m somewhere between 100 and 200 hours spent writing openly on the Internet (in all honesty, it’s probably closer to 200, since most of my work takes closer to an hour). In that time, I’ve written poetry, political commentary, short stories, life restructuring, and emotional discussion pieces.

Sometimes, I get asked by people how I write so much—I mean, there’s only so much to talk about, right? Well, yes and no. Firstly, the human condition is infinite. Or, if not infinite, it at least is far longer than what a human could talk about in one lifetime. Seriously, I could write every day of my life and still only scratch the surface of the world. At the same time, it also begs the question: how much is relevant? I mean, do we really need another college student presenting ideas on how World War II was bad when we could go to a source that is more well-known, or even more entertaining? No.

Digging deep to be entertaining, or interesting, or whatever you want to call it, can be difficult. I know I struggle with it. I know people who are professionals that struggle with it. If you have never heard Louis C.K. talk about his life as a stand-up comic, struggling for new material, check out this video. It’s pretty enlightening, even though it’s born out of the passing of another famous comic. The reality is this: 1) we can always get better at what we do. Take Usain Bolt, famous fastest man alive. 2008, breaks the world record for the 100-meter dash, at the Olympics. This guy is set. He’s in history. He’s the greatest ever. Exactly one year later, in 2009, he breaks his own record. 2) to get better, you have to work for it constantly. Usain Bolt is a good example. It’s not like he sat around for a year to break his own record. He probably ran every day. Louis C.K. writing new material constantly to always come up with something unique and different.

This is the reason I write new stuff constantly. But what I have noticed is that it gets hard sometimes. I LOVE writing. I mean like I really, truly enjoy it. But that doesn’t mean every day is easy. Sometimes I don’t know what to write about. Sometimes I sit down at the computer with no clue what is going on. Some days suck. I’ve written things I don’t particularly like. But if you throw darts at a dartboard 200 times, sometimes you’ll hit dead in the center, sometimes you’ll hit that solid midpoint, and sometimes you’ll miss that board entirely. If you never throw the darts, however, then you can never hit the bullseye. And, conveniently, the more you practice, the less misses you will have.

WATER IN A CUP

Hello everyone,

 

Today I was watching the Daily Show with Trevor Noah’s interview of Obama. During it, they briefly talked about climate change, which of course is an important topic for many people—either positively or negatively. Now, I am a pretty strong believer that climate change is real, just like the vast majority of scientists out there. However, a lot of people do not believe it. So, today, I would like to address those people. And, I would like to start with a question.

Do you think the Earth is infinite? If you do, you should probably stop reading this because you are wasting your time. The Earth is not infinite. It is vastly bigger than you or I, but that does not make it infinite. If you can agree with me and you think that the Earth is measurable, then I would implore you to keep reading. Like all things measurable, the Earth has a distinct beginning and ending. Whether you believe it was created by God or a Big Bang doesn’t really matter to me. Just that you realize that, as it was created, so too will it eventually end. Sound fair? Ok, so, now I want you to think of all the water in the world. Put it all in a cup. One huge cup. Can you do that for me? If you get a big enough cup, you can. Right? Now put a drop of black arsenic into it. Doesn’t do anything right? But if you add a drop every day for a year, you have 365 drops. And if you do that every day, for 10 years, you have 3652.4 drops (leap years mess up math). Still, it does not really impact the water that much. You could probably mix that water around, take a sip, and be perfectly fine. But this is one person. One person does not make a massive impact on the scope of the Earth.

Now picture 7 billion drops, per day, every day, put into the water. Suddenly that adds up a lot quicker, doesn’t it? At what point is the arsenic water something of a hazard to you if you have to drink it? Now, this is a bit watered down (pardon the pun), but take this concept and apply it to every other aspect of human resource mining. Pollution of the air. Deforestation. The list goes on. That stuff doesn’t just go off into space. It hangs around here with us. You wouldn’t expect to live if you put your head in a bag for a few hours, would you? Eventually, you would suffocate, because you would burn through the oxygen in the bag and be left with something you could not breath. So why can’t this happen on Earth. Things don’t just get sucked back out into space—we wouldn’t be able to breath if that were the case, because all the oxygen would be gone.

The Earth is like a tracksuit. A little running isn’t a big deal. You will heat up for a minute, but when you stop running you will be fine. But if you keep running, the track suit itself will heat up too. And then when you stop running, the suit is still burning up. And eventually it will cool down, but before that you might be so unbearably hot that you have to take it off or it will kill you. We have been running for a long, long time. We used to be walking. But for the last hundred years, we have been sprinting. Sprinting so fast that our legs are heavy, and the tracksuit around us is burning up. And we can’t take it off until we stop running. Have you ever tried to take your cloths off while you were running? You either slow down to do it, or you fall flat on your face. So I impress upon you, if this all makes sense, even if there are minor holes in it, consider the possibility that we might need to do something about it.