Monday, March 29, 2010

four words: avatar, the sequel. ugh.

I have a confession: I am a geek in nerd's clothing. Or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, the truth is that I love science fiction more than you probably think. I've obsessively researched everything from LARP-ers to MMORPGs and I've had my fair share of debates about Hobbits versus Elves. (By the way, Hobbits are cool. Don't try and convince me otherwise.) I've even watched all three extended versions of the Lord of the Rings films back-to-back...twelve hours straight. Fucking epic.

But here's another confession: I'm not that hardcore. Put me next to the biggest Star Trek geek and I'll seem like a Disney princess. That sci fi class was difficult enough -- it didn't matter if I read and watched everything; there are always more fanatic fiends on the other side of the fence. And good for them. I'm jealous. I don't think my aspirations ever lie with wanting to be as intensely absorbed into the world as they are, but I admire that kind of passion. You'll find it in me occasionally for various things...

Not a problem, though. I like my closet sci fi and fantasy obsession. I like the look on people's faces when they hear how ridiculously obsessed I was with trying to learn Elvish or about my strange foray into the world of the Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG (which, by the way, was a bizarre trap of enchantment and insanity). And yeah, that is my Harry Potter Uno deck, actually.

Maybe it's because I was never much of the "stereotypical girl." Sure, I like my nail polish and dresses and clackety high-heeled shoes, but throw a virtual world at me and you may never see me again. I get really excited over the strangest things. The second I saw the trailer for Second Skin, I couldn't stop thinking about it until I found it online (although it was months and months later). Two of my favorite things: documentaries and virtual worlds. Awesome.

I really enjoyed writing my film critique on Episode IV in high school. And my lightsaber article for LJ21. And I even ended up loving my final essay for sci fi class. I even loved that weird documentary on LARP-ers I found and watched...oh, and the Animatrix -- I didn't love it, but I thought it was cool/interesting/odd. DVD: bought the day it came out.

I'm not knowledgeable enough to be a Sci Fi Snob though, not in the way I'm a Journalism Snob (sometimes...only sometimes!). I've faithfully stuck by Lost when others gave up because they thought it was stupid. I even gave those Matrix sequels a chance. I hover over my roommate's shoulder when she plays WoW (not because I want to play, but because I'm so incredibly intrigued) even though I disapprove of people who throw their lives away for the game. I own Lord of the Rings Risk even though it makes me so damn frustrated to play it because it's the longest fucking game ever.

So what's my point? Well, this is all just really leading up to this:

Yes, you read that right: a sequel to Avatar (maybe). Okay, I'll admit that when I first walked out of the theatre I couldn't quite shake the awe from my eyes. Visually, the film is stunning. If you're going to see it for anything, watch it for the pretty images that will attack your eyeballs. Don't, however, watch it for the story. Or the plot. Or the characters. Or the dialogue. Etcetera, etcetera.

James Cameron, pretty pictures and fancy technology is not enough to disguise your poorly-made film. We all saw what happened to Star Wars I, II and III. And The Matrix 2 and 3. And Spiderman 2 and 3. No, Spiderman is not 'science fiction,' but I don't care, I'm trying to make a point, and that point is: Do we see a trend? Yes. Shitty plots don't make for Academy-worthy films. Avatar is Pocahontas with blue people. Sorry, James Cameron, I don't accept your movie. Next, please.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

i woke up in a car.

A Something Corporate video to start your day. I may not have woken up in a car, but I woke up with this song in my head:

Music is an interesting thing. I used to think everyone thought of their life in terms of songs, and then I thought I was the only one. I think it depends on the person, though. People see their lives in different ways. I've always been a creative type of person though..or at least I think I am.

When I was younger, I wanted to go into music. There was little doubt about it. I loved piano and singing and I wanted to learn more instruments. Like most nine-year-olds, I would imagine life as a pop star with my friends, dancing along to Britney Spears videos and writing our own lyrics. I always wanted to be more serious about music than I actually was, I think.

I bothered my parents to death for a year before they got me a classical guitar for my sixteenth birthday. It took a bit of self-discipline but I picked up the basics and now I think I'm a little more than "okay"...haha. I feel rusty when it comes to music now though because I've been so out of practice. I miss the days of choir. Harmonies are amongst my favorite sounds in the world, and I still get chills when I think back to the songs we did in Chamber Choir.

I wish I had more time/energy/creativity to write more music. I'm glad listening to music doesn't take the same amount of time/energy/creativity.

Songs, for me, often define moments in time. They're attached to certain memories or people, and that makes it difficult (or easy) to listen to. I've never thought of myself as a music snob, though there are some songs, artists and genres I "meh" about. But when I hear something good, I file it away in my brain and it rarely ever leaves.

Or maybe this is just my excuse for quoting Black-Eyed Peas in my E105 essay.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

the way you move ain't fair, you know.

I want to do this all day on the ukulele.

Have you ever realized how overrated responsibilities can be?

Monday, March 22, 2010


It's not fair, right? The douchebags in your life should not be successful. They shouldn't get to be happy. Especially not if they're immature, selfish, oblivious and incapable of any sort of compassion towards another human being if it doesn't benefit them.


[/ rant]

Okay, really, time to get over it. That kind of ranting just makes me the immature and selfish one, doesn't it? I think back to last summer and try to remember what it was like, but it's almost as if it barely happened. I think when we want too much to be happy, we immediately shoot ourselves in the foot. Like Cheever used to always say to us: Wishing for happiness automatically insures that you are creating your own unhappiness. Which is true, because saying, "I want to be happy" means you've set a standard and until you reach whatever abstract goal of happiness you have in your mind, you will be unhappy.

I think back to three months ago and how terrible things were - for me, at least. I'm convinced that the heartless feel nothing in moments of what should be pain and suffering. (Okay, that was immature. But it's an emotion, so whatever.) I wonder why I hurt so much. It almost seems silly now when I look back on it. What did it matter to feel hurt? It didn't change anything. I think my problem is that I feel emotions too strongly - when someone hurts me, it strikes harder than it should. I wish it didn't; it's not a productive use of my time or energy at all. But there's really no way to make that stop. I've been like that for as long as I can remember: Feel everything you can, but as long as nobody can see it on your face, then you're fine.

Do I feel like the six months and all of the experiences with it were a waste? In a way, yes. I know we all learn from everything and everyone contributes to a part of who we are, but I can't help it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

bark louder, please.

I'm a small, yappy dog.

Correction: I'm like a small, yappy dog. They always want to be heard because they're so damn small.

I've always been the youngest in my family on both sides. Before my cousin was born in 2001, I was the baby of the family. It had its ups and downs - People adored me, but I never felt like they expected too much out of me, nor have many of them realized that I'm no longer five-years-old.

My least favorite memories of being the youngest were any moments spent in LA with my older sister and two older cousins. I always felt like the three of them had some special club that I was not allowed to join. I'd always been shy and reserved ever since starting to lose my hair; it caused me to withdraw greatly from any type of social interaction. Losing my hair also sent me into a long phase of questioning and confusion: Why did outside appearances matter so much? Thoughts of "What if I didn't want to look like somebody else?" led to "What if I didn't like the same things everyone else liked?" or "What if I didn't find that as funny as everyone else did?" How far were people willing to go to conform? As I looked at my young, balding reflection in the bathroom mirror, I could only tell myself that I wasn't interested in conforming.

When I was around my cousins and sister together, I felt insignificantly small. The things they liked weren't of particular interest to me, and I didn't understand why my sister changed so much when we were around them. She seemed different from the sister I knew when we would be at home in Sacramento and I didn't like it all. Maybe it was a conformity issue, maybe it wasn't - I don't know. But I know that it seemed easier for them to ignore me than to try and include me.

In those instances, I'd spend a lot of time sitting with the "grown-ups" as they had conversations I couldn't really understand. I would get bored and want attention, but was raised to never demand it. I hated the children in grocery stores or restaurants who screamed and cried for no reason other than to be heard. I wanted to be heard, but I didn't want to be obnoxious.

I think, though, that I found my own methods of screaming and crying. Every action I do, I do 110%. It's as if I'm compensating for the years I spent under an invisibility cloak. I'm a workaholic because I think I'm trying to prove to my younger self that she won't spend her whole life as insignificant or small. I'm a workaholic because I can deal with isolation. I don't know if I necessarily enjoy it, but I don't mind it.

Words don't always come easily to me, but I speak when I can and hope to God that someone is listening. If I don't have anything to say, though, I normally stay quiet - a result of the way I was raised, I suppose. If someone talks over me or ignores me, I generally let it go without a fight because I'm not as assertive as I'd like to be.

It's hard to stand out at a school where you're part of the majority. I risk blending in too much to the point of anonymity. I want to stand out, but not for the wrong reasons. I need to find a way to prove (to both the world and to myself) that I can do anything and can be heard. I don't need to blend in. I really don't.

Unless there are the days I want to blend in. In those cases, I just keep telling myself what Wayne told me on my last day at Albertsons: "You are special and you are unique. In a historical context, the world would never be the same if you had not been born into it." --And that's true for everyone, whether you're visible or in hiding. I'm not a timid child anymore, I've learned how to speak up and go for what I want. I may not always succeed, but I think my youthful self would be in awe.

So okay, maybe I'm not yappy. But even if I am, I hope I'm a damn cute puppy.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"I think I can, I think I can..."

Do you know what I've just realized? I'm living my dream.

Let me explain. (Sorry, this won't be succinct.)

I was always under the impression that everyone has one dream, one goal, something they aspire to do or to be. "I want to be a doctor" or "I want to run a marathon"--all reasonable and noble goals. I suppose what I failed to realize is that dreams shouldn't be limited. "I want to dance in the rain" or "I want to own a puppy" are both dreams as well. There is no rule book that outlines what a "dream" is or is not. "What's your dream?" people will ask. I've never had a set answer. I have desires, I have goals. Do I have one singular dream? I think, if I had to give a finite answer, I'd respond: "My dream is to be able to dream. To have goals. To have the ability to chase them."

I have wonderful parents. We haven't always seen eye-to-eye, and God knows I've had my fair share of disagreements with my dad. Things weren't always perfect, but I'm lucky in that they've never tried to hold me back. Moving away from Sacramento is the greatest example of that: They could have insisted I stay close to home. They could have told me where to go and what to study, but they didn't. I picked up and moved hundreds of miles south and I only go home maybe once or twice a year. But the fact that they allowed me to do that with no hesitation is such an amazing gesture. Part of my dream is to make them proud - not because I feel obligated to, but because I want to show them how far their dream for me has taken me.

I have an amazing family, full of people who love each other. "Family can be friends too," my mom told me when I was little, which is something I see amongst my relatives. Each of my cousins' parents have shown to operate on the same wavelength that my parents do: The belief that no one should be limited. There are doctors, artists, lawyers, writers, scientists, teachers, etc. in my family, and not because someone told them they should be those things, but because they themselves decided that's what they wanted for themselves.

I have the greatest friends and mentors I could possibly imagine ever having in my life. The road hasn't always been smooth, but through it all I've always been sure that these are the people who inspire me daily. They've dreamed alongside me and we've helped each other along the way.

(This isn't to make you feel jealous or for me to brag and say, "I'm better than you" because I don't think I am. I think we all need to realize that the people in our life are gifts - however you may feel about them at one point or another. We all need to appreciate who and what we have. Every moment is a learning experience.)

There are so many times I feel defeated and frustrated. How many times have I wanted to throw in the towel and give up? Too many to count, but the wonderful thing about having parents, family and friends who support you is that they'll always hold you up when you're ready to fall. It's because of them that I've never lost my ability to dream. I've never had to step on the brakes and pull back because the only thing ever holding me back has been myself.

Back in April of 2006, I toured the UCI campus for the first time with Megan and picked up a copy of the New U. "This is what I'll be working on if I get into UCI," I told my parents. "I want to get on the road to journalism."

I was so ready and so set to jump into the Literary Journalism program, but I was scared. Would I have the drive and motivation to succeed? What if I failed? When I began UCI in 2007, I wanted to get involved with the New U, but I immediately got scared and never tried. I spent nearly two years on the listserv before finally submitting a story. The way I got involved was not through writing (which is what I had wanted to do), but through layout instead. And let me be honest - it was not fun. I loathed my internship. I was getting paid nearly $12 an hour at the School of the Arts in a job that is not only fulfilling, but fun, and here I was at the bottom of the food chain, sitting in a crowded newsroom on Sundays and feeling small and insignificant. I wanted to speak through my writing and share stories, not drag and drop boxes into InDesign. (Disclaimer: I love it now, but that's because I'm not an intern. True story.)

I could've written, but I didn't. I stopped my own dreams, not some external force. I held myself back.

But then something happened, in between all of the unnecessary dorm drama, the frustration, the roadblocks and the crying: I moved on. I'd like to say there was a defining moment that I can pick out that "changed my life," but there wasn't. I just stopped whining and realized that the world wasn't going to wait for me to be ready. It was up to me to keep going. After all the struggles I'd been through in my life, there was no wall I couldn't attempt to jump.

So I decided to steamroll ahead and not look back until I reached a point I felt ready to reflect. I think this is that point.

I'm a year away from finishing two majors. I have a fantastic job at the School of the Arts that allows me to be creative and see my work on billboards and more. I've been published in multiple publications. I'm now Managing Editor at the New U. I've been handling my life on my own for about three years now, and despite the multiple attempts to quit and give up, I've somehow always managed to pick myself back up and keep going.

As cheesy and cliché as it sounds, that's my dream: to keep going. Make no mistake, this is not idealistic optimism or ungrounded desires. I know the world is a fucked up place, but that doesn't mean I need to add to the misery out there. I know that success requires hard work and determination. When I look back on the past several years, I don't think I've done enough to earn my place in the real world yet. But I'm trying, I'm still working and I'll keep going until the day I die.

Monday, March 8, 2010

this makes no sense, but neither do we.

Okay, here it is: a rambling inner monologue of utmost confusion.

Find a passion. Follow your dream. Don’t let anyone stop you, don’t let anyone make you doubt it. People are always going to tell you shit about how you “should” act, what you “should” do, where you “should” go; don’t let any of that affect you. Be your own person. Stop making excuses, stop making apologies. You don’t ever act out of uncertainty - everything you do is for a reason, whether you realize it at the moment or not.

Stop complaining. Stop whining. Stop blaming others. If you make a mess, clean it up. No one is going to feel as sorry for you as you do yourself. No one cares about you as much as you do yourself. That doesn’t mean people don’t care about you, it means you know you better than anyone else and you need to look out for yourself because, sometimes, shit goes down and you’re the only one who can explain it to yourself. Know yourself. Learn who you are. Stop letting other people and other labels define you.

Don’t use people and don’t hurt people. Steamroll ahead towards the future, but don’t run everyone else over because you’re too damn busy making a mess. Let others into your life, but don’t let them take over and don’t invite drama. Learn to let shit go. Learn to stand on your own two feet and not regret a single thing.

Be confident. Be sure. If you’re not, fake it and learn.

Hold your head high. Look people in the eyes. Speak slowly. Open your eyes and take in the world for what it is. Don’t waste time. Don’t be afraid to laugh, sing or cry. Don’t be afraid to be ridiculous from time to time. Find people who let you act the way you want. Turn away from those who make you into someone else.

Every second of every day: act with purpose and intent. Every second of every day, be the person you know you truly are. Shed expectations and move forward. Shed drama and don’t look back. Every second of every day matters.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"A Friend Like Ben"

Ben was thirteen when I knew him. He was much taller and built heavier than me. He always wore the same grey and navy blue shirts, rotating between the few that he owned. His hair was short and he wore a serious expression, pausing rarely to smile or laugh. He looked tough, but inside I knew he had a soft heart. His angry exterior melted away as I got to know him. The preschoolers looked up to him and when he thought no one was looking, he would return a hug or hold Dezirae's hand. Dezirae was four and always scared. She needed a big brother and Ben was hers.

Every morning when I arrived at the school, Ben would already be there, sitting on the play structure or playing basketball with DaShawn. When he would see me, he'd come over to talk. At first I didn't know what to say to him. We had virtually nothing in common: I was raised in a middle-class, immigrant family, attending one of the best private schools that my dad sacrificed everything for. He was homeless, sleeping by the levy and wearing the same pair of tennis shoes he's worn since he was eleven.

Occasionally his mom would stop by the school at lunchtime and the two would go to the soup kitchen down the street together. Ben would always come back afterwards, and I wouldn't see his mom again for the rest of the day. I don't know where she went or where she stayed, but at the end of everyday, Ben would wait, unsure of whether she would come by or not. Once in awhile she returned, but most days, Ben would still be waiting by the time I left for the day.

"You don't stay with your parents?" I asked once, early in our interaction.

"No. I stay by the levy. We move cuz the cops don't want us there."


"Me and the others," he said, referencing the other homeless who slept there too.

"Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

"I have everyone here." He motioned around the school and the Loaves & Fishes complex.

I started to see more than just a place after that. It was a community, a home, much like I felt at Loretto and surrounded by people who were like family to me.

We weren't supposed to play favorites, but Ben held a special place in my heart. Over the course of my time at the school, I never had to discipline Ben or talk to him about his conduct like I had to with the other kids.

"So what are you gonna do when you get outta here?" Ben asked one Friday afternoon while I cleaned up the lunch area where the preschoolers had effectively made a mess. (My love-hate relationship with Fridays stemmed from lunch duty with the preschoolers because of this.)

"Out of school?" I asked, thinking he meant for the day.

"No. Like, the city."

"You mean college?"

"Yeah. You're gonna do that?" He meant to ask if I was going to college. I told him I was and he nodded. "What's for snack today?"

I told him we were having a cake at the end of the day to say goodbye to Miss Elizabeth. The conversation ended there.

Ben wasn't going to be able to go to college. At his age, I was preparing for a college prep high school. He wasn't even thinking that far ahead.

Throughout the summer we took the kids to pools, kayaking trips at Natomas and afternoon treats at Coldstones. We went to San Francisco to the Exploratorium and we would picnic at McKinley or visit the Sacramento Zoo. It was the summer I never got to have as a child, and I got the chance to experience it all with the same newness that the rest of the kids felt.

When I left at the end of the summer, I knew I would never see those kids again. Phillip, Dezirae, Ashley, Sekina, Traci (another kid who remained dear to me, and not just because we shared a name), Amir, Ben - I would move on, but where would they be?

I returned the following year, but none of them were there. I went back, searching for familiarity, but they had already moved on. When I left Sacramento, it was my time to move on too. Ben would be 18 now. I don't know where his life has brought him to but I hope wherever that place is, he's still returning hugs and holding hands of children as lost and scared as he once was.