Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stories I have yet to tell but would like to someday pt. 2

So, in the last five (actually more than five) years, the latest story lines I've pondered have had to do with angels. Loosely biblical in that they all have jobs they are born into (via creation)--which is their title--and serve God (an amoral being in this fictional setting) these angels, also have powers associated with their jobs. I've thought about and began developing a string of characters for one story line, while the other is still in the stages of being imagined out. Both are in serious need of being fleshed out. My fatal flaw in doing this is that it's easier to imagine the stories in my head (and super cool scenes that could be in them) than it is to write it out and actually grapple with making sense of all this madness. But on to the ideas...

"Untitled" (seriously I don't know what to call it yet)--generated during undergrad years

I probably developed too many characters for this one--and have toyed around with separate stories and story lines that deal with them in groups but the overarching story line deals with this premise:
Heaven and Hell are planets hidden from Earth (a purgatory of sorts for both planets) by gateways. Heaven is the home base for God and the angels. God is not present in these story lines but the laws of God are (all of which I have not yet firmly established). Angelic beings found in violation of these laws are sent to Earth in a sentencing ritual that takes place at a gateway found in the middle of the planet. Senders (an angelic job class) are tasked with handing down the sentencing and forcing the guilty party out by way of a giant hammer which has an embossed halo at its end that is inscribed into the Fallen's  body when hit with it. This parting blow sends them through the gateway to Earth shedding them of their angelic flesh and becoming a human soul to be born somewhere on Earth to begin their atonement.

The ritual is so devastatingly violent that a large amount of the Fallen forget their origins and simply grow up and live as humans. There are few ways in which they are able to recognize their true origins 1) they are contacted by Communicators on Heaven and given a task to fulfill--the completion of which allows for their record to be reviewed for re-admittance into Heaven 2) they make contact with another that has shared a significant connection with them while on Heaven and 3) they sustain a connection with their status for a significant amount of time on Earth that awakens memories of their status on Heaven--something that often occurs in adulthood. Once their origins are recognized, these individuals have a choice to make--fulfill the duties they were sentenced to fulfill in order to be reconsidered for re-admittance into Heaven, or simply continue living on Earth and being judged upon their death for admittance to Heaven or Hell (not a terrible place but a dystopian one nonetheless).

Whew! And that's just the premise!

So with this story, or series of stories, I follow several individuals who have become aware of their origins and thus their associated powers. Angelic categories developed so far include: Guardians (which includes Humanes, Plantaeous, Earthers, Animalia, Insectors, among others; each has a breakdown of sub categories except for the Humanes), Seraphs (or Archangels--which I have taken to mean the bringers of death),  Elementals (for their control and guidance of Earth's various elements), and Cherubs (bringers of love--and not always the stereotypical kind).

When accessing the powers within their souls, their eye color changes and is associated with their angelic class.

With the varied realizations is a coming to grips with their "crimes" on Heaven and their lives up to that point. Some have hungered or have been haunted by the need to establish a connection with another Heavenly being in order to do right by them, or bring to close the situation that led to their exile in the first place, regardless of whether or not it gets them back into Heaven; like Isis, Psyche, Focus, and Twadeah. Others have hungered for some sense of worth through which near self-destruction has led to their awakening; like Halo, Nova, Zero, Panther, and Feather (that's right I began character/name recycling). Others have started their own underground organizations which the Fallen become involved in in order to assist humanity (mostly  Humanes), Earth in general (an amoral undertaking at times by the other Guardians), or simply reconnect with their past lives as Heavenly beings; like the Bluebird Assassins which primarily consists of Seraphs like Canary, Sparrow, Redd, Falcon, and Stellar.

Sometimes these groups interact with one another in positive and negative ways. But I wanted to follow and develop stories, and adventures surrounding individuals who at one point were hapless but become empowered, all while struggling with what it means to be who they are, what they really want from life (to return to Heaven or just live as beings with angelic souls), and how they should live knowing what they do.

Other "Untitled" story--graduate school years 

Taking off from parts of the premise that involves angelic beings and planets Heaven and Earth, I came up with a different story line. This one chronicles the lives of angelic beings before they were exiled onto Earth to be born as humans. As they grow up, these beings--in their infantile stages up to the moment of childhood where they completely cease speaking gibberish--still maintain memories and the languages (observed as gibberish by adults) their home planet; however their infantile brains are incapable of full articulation or being understood by humans, which leads to much frustration by some of these infants. This is something that fades as they mature into their human selves and is forgotten completely once they stop speaking gibberish--or practicing the last remembrances of their connection to their angelic selves and planet.

I got this idea from listening to my Sonny Buns make up his own language and at times going on an on in gibberish (he's four by the way and so far an only child) in ways that make me think maybe his is saying something in some other language. Maybe growing up is the severance of our connection to heaven or at least ourselves as angels in heaven.

Backbone Snacks: Misadventures in Dystopia (title still being revised)--graduate school years

This story chronicles Sun's (short for Sunshine) journey through a Societology seminary where she hopes to become a priest that can help others. Aided by her closest friends Santos and Feather, she struggles through the first of three trials--Design (the others being Mastery, and Faith)--in order to validate herself to the other Priests and Father--the head of the seminary (now a status fulfilled by any gender). During this time, Sun and the others are aware that the Priests, the Father, and other Acolytes (the status of Priests in training), learn to maintain their status by un/knowingly consuming the backbones of others that are powerless.

One's backbone  is a source of strength and ability to stand one's ground--one's dignity resides in their backbones, which are mercilessly harvested by the powerful. This essence is ripped from one's spine making it a violent and traumatic occurrence (I was thinking of the stripping of Wolverine's adamantium in "Fatal Attractions" as a depiction of this act) that can wipe out a good amount of one's memories of the event and what led up to it. At its worst a person can be gravely injured and loose a significant amount of memory.

Additional aspects of this dystopian world include one's soul being housed in an orb separate from their beings, Acolytes that are housed directly at the Seminary of their choosing (there are tons of specialties to become a Priest in) enhancements through cybernetics which can result in deformities on the body and or mind--where most implants are placed.

This is one story I've actually begun writing. It might end up being a short story but is quite lengthy based on what I have to add. Haven't touched it in a few months, but I liked the direction it was going. This was my autoethnographic fictional piece that chronicles my trials and tribulations experienced in graduate school (not much of a secret for those of you that know).

Well that's all for the story ideas at the moment--minus the super cool action sequences I dreamed up for the angelic sagas. Just had to get these ideas down on internet paper. Cannot keep track of them in my brain.

Thanks for listening.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Stories I have yet to tell but would like to someday

So, after reading this series of posts, I've decided to at least chronicle all the stories, starting from eighth grade, I've attempted to develop and ideas I've had in my head. Most of these involve super-powered beings (what can I say? Reading Marvel does things for the imagination sometimes). So here it goes:

"The Crew"--eighth grade
This story featured an alter-ego of me. The main character, Panther (that's right my power was that I could either partially or fully morph into a panther), after finding out her powers as a teenager, runs away from a crappy existence at home and stays with a friend Canary who--along with her family--so happens to be part of an espionage network of people with and without powers, The Crew. Panther and Canary (no powers) join a team that includes Redd and Cosmo, and the four have awesome adventures and a few close calls. Needless to say, her life gets interesting as she gets to meddle in affairs that the rest of humanity knows nothing about--you know, monsters, aliens, and the like, kicking ass the entire way. I intended it to be a comic book series.

 Just one of those fantasies a kid has after watching Foxy Brown and James Bond flicks--fantasies of being taken seriously, kicking ass first and taking names later. You know, the complete opposite of my then crappy life.

"Bluebird Assassins"--high school
This was more of an idea I had about a group of young adults that find one another after discovering their parents were part of an assassins network and that they have been genetically enhanced to one day continue doing their jobs--something that manifests in the form of a mind trigger once they are of age (18) and the parent in question has been offed (if this were to happen while under-aged, their trigger wouldn't happen until they reached 18). Part of this trigger puts in the possessor a need to find something that has been lost, something that they are attracted to--their parents' secret arsenal which has a video that, once watched initiates them into the group Feather. Oddly enough this occurs with three of the kids at once (Stellar, Crowe, and, Robin), whom bring in the other two (Blue, and Jaye--twin girls) after finding out their parents were killed as well.

Things are fine for awhile as they find their way in the world of assassins, but the story ends up being about Blue and Jaye going their separate ways as Blue wants to trade this way of life for one of atonement while Jaye is more than okay with fulfilling the role she was designed to fulfill.

Again another fantasy world of action and adventure where my alter ego Blue is once more empowered and awesome, even in her quest for some sense of agency in her life.

Up next--recent (5yrs to present) stories and ideas

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reviewing/Revising(?) the "Relationships" post

After reading The Art of Loving (again with that book? I know, I know) I realized part of what I was trying to articulate with my post on relationships (in which clarity is a major issue). This articulation is prefaced by a question asked by Fromm:

"is the social structure of western civilization," and the "spirit resulting from it...conducive to the development of love?"

I would replace civilization with society, but other than that, when considering the love described by Fromm and bell hooks posited on a previous post, this question applies to the functioning of relationships as well. When considering, as Fromm does, that the social structures of western society are rooted in capitalism, and all the characteristics implied (I'll get to that in a second), it is not hard to come to the conclusion that the way western society functions, and the ideas, values, norms, and beliefs that stem from it, which are instilled in its people, is incompatible to the development, let alone imagining of love or the relationships that can result from it.

What characteristics of a society rooted in capitalism do I mean?

For one, consumption. I've observed love to be a major act of consumption, not just of things but of one another which lends itself to another characteristic, ownership. As I mentioned in my first take on relationships, we do all sorts of things to make ourselves worthy of consumption, which alienates us from ourselves (alienation is another characteristic). We've been trained to live a life where we are complacent with alienation from ourselves and others, from the work we end up doing, so its easy for many of us to do so in many situations, even relationships. It is as if knowing ourselves and being sure of ourselves is less important when it comes to establishing a relationship. At the same time we are highly individualistic and self-centered; taught to believe that we should live for the moment, which amounts to living for ourselves. While teamwork is prized, it is hardly a training ground for the sense of communalism needed to relate well and for a sustained amount of time with Others. Indeed I think "teamwork" is an activity that is conjoined in alienation  when the goal is the production of some thing or another--getting the job done. Contradictory they may be, but we function with characteristics like these pretty well.

All we learn about love and relationships it seems is from areas steeped in consumerism, especially the media.  Love is this prize to be won in the form of an individual. We want to be accepted for who and what we are without understanding who or what that is too clearly ourselves. Love is that thing to be put on a shelf with the rest of our possessions, to be controlled and shaped just how we want it to be, forgetting, that we are dealing with another person the whole time.

It is difficult to imagine transcending the very social structures we live in, especially when we know the negative sanctions hurled our way for even trying. Yet questing for the love that transcends ourselves, and perhaps, begins with ourselves (which isn't selfish by any means) requires thinking and acting outside of the box.

This has led me to books like The Art of Loving, which gives the point of view of love being viewed as an art form  to be understood and practiced meaningfully. I've decided that this practice begins with me before I can be confident and competent with doing the same for others (I'm sure my Mate would appreciate that). This is a slow and difficult process (especially in confronting my roots as an individual), but worth engaging in so I can better understand where I am coming from and where I want to go to: a place or at least a state of being structured by care, respect, responsibility, knowledge, and supported by commitment, trust, and open honest communication.

Next up for reading on this topic:
Strength to Love  MLK jr.(need to finish)
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community MLK jr
Pedagogy of the Heart  Paulo Freire
Communion bell hooks (maybe)

other suggestions?
general feedback?

Until next time...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Theme of current path of study

Lately, I've been thinking, reading, and writing about love (for example....). I've learned that self-love is important to being able to act lovingly towards others. When talking about love, I mean to abide by lenses provided by Erich Fromm (2000) and bell hooks (2000) on the matter. Specifically, that love is an action that involves care, respect, responsibility, and knowledge, which is aided by commitment, trust, and open honest communication. I've come to the temporary conclusion that in order to do this effectively, it is necessary to begin with self-love, which requires critical self-examination. How can I consider myself capable of acting out of love for others through my endeavors when I cannot do the same for myself? This is how I've arrived at the conclusion that acting confidently in and out of love requires that I am able to do this with myself first. But maybe this is a journey that makes acting on self-love and love of humanity simultaneously more possible than I realize. Or maybe it is a necessity that I treat my endeavors in this way.

In any case, I realize how estranged I am from myself--mind, body, and spirit--and how necessary it is to critically examine who I am and what guides my actions, good, bad, and everything in between. Acknowledging all aspects that make me who I am, I've determined, will allow me to comfortably do the same for others regardless of who they are. I am currently grappling with the more negative aspects of myself--the stuff I feel I could do without--and what it would mean to accept these things instead of reject and sever them from my being. After pondering about this in relation to Full Metal Alchemist (did I mention I love that show? Both of them?)  I know I should be intentional about accepting all of who I am and working with what I have, not matter how detestable my negative elements may seem. I'm still not sure if this means finding the positive in these not-so-desirable attributes but maybe accepting them is all that matters.

Wanting to recognize and accept this wholeness that is myself so that I can do the same for others brings me to this song, which I find to be about the desire for human connection be it with the self, with others, or with the self and others simultaneously.

At the moment, I find this song to be about opening up and transcending isolation by acknowledging those aspects that are essential to making us living human beings and all that implies (again, whether this occurs on an individual or group level).

(not the video I was going for  but it's the song that matters here!)

This is the kind of elation I feel when I connect with others in meaningful ways, and when I find those things, be it books, music, etc. that connect with something within myself. This is the type of elation I'd like to continue to encounter as I move forward.

Recommended readings?

Well, until next time...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hip hop as musical alchemy

After talking with sis about it, it seems I must articulate my thoughts on why hip hop is/was awesome musically speaking. In either case, I love hip hop.

Lyrically, I enjoy the individuals/groups that pour their soul into discussing issues both personal and social. While by definition, I am not a connoisseur of the genre, I am quite sensitive to the occurrence of this outpouring in hip hop songs. When combined with awesome music, these songs are taken to a new height and can never be forgotten. This isn't to say I shy away from songs with an awesome beat but lacking in substance lyrically (it makes me want to dance, I can't help it).

So is this if you ignore the words (not that I know them all)!

What makes these songs great on a musical level, and what made hip hop so cool in the beginning was the use of samples. When done well, sampling is an art form for which deejays are usually responsible. Listening to the source material of some notables says as much.

Songs produced in this manner reminds me of alchemy. When considering alchemy as the deconstructing and reconstructing of something in order to understand  it, it makes sense to think of the art of sampling in this way--which further elevates the individuals that are able to do this. It is likely they know and understand the music being used in some way or another--usually in a deep way (this goes for music from other corners of the world regardless of language).  The de and reconstruction that results in the tracks that envelop the songs they create is therefore usually incredible and very artistic. Though the resulting song is one in its own right because it is so different from its source material(s), the feel of the song is not that much different from its source material(s). Take for instance:

and it's de/reconstruction into this:

The theme connecting the two is that of love for another/others(?)--at least in my mind.

Because this art form is usually associated with hip hop, I have begun to theorize that the people--creators and consumers--associated have qualities that allow for this awesomeness to occur in ways that vary from music creation to the collection of music one has.

So far, I've come up with this list:

  • they exist (musically at least) in a perpetual state of great understanding. This means they are open to a variety of forms of music--even forms they generally dislike. Individuals are open to moments in a song  that catch their attention in profound ways (this is the stuff that gets sampled).  
  • they are usually  non-conformists when it comes to musical tastes--another reason why the samples themselves end up being so awesome! 
  • they see musical styles and genres as diverse, yet interconnected--which may be where the non-conformity comes into play
  • their music (created and/or collected) is a conduit through which they express themselves and communicate to others
For me people with these sorts of qualities are bound to be into deejaying, hip hop, and related genres. To be clear , there is a difference between sampling and reusing a song for the purpose of giving it that old school yet modern twist (the same goes for this recent trend in underground-ish scene, lame! And yes, I realize I am being rather close-minded about this). There is stuff out there that is new yet stylistically old and highly sample-able i.e. most of what's on the Daptone and Truth and Soul labels (not even close to lame. I mean have you heard SJDK's version of "What Have You Done for Me Lately?").

Any thoughts on this topic are welcome. I realize there are shortcomings to this pondering, especially when it comes to universalizing people and not knowing enough about hip hop and sampling and the people who do it. Still this is something I've noticed and pondered for a while now and had to establish some initial thoughts.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Theorizing love and "we are one"

***The following is from a message I wrote to a friend with whom I am discussing the book The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. I want to incorporate some of the ideas in this book into my research. Still figuring that out... Additions have been made to the original as continued pondering.***

The Holy Trinity and the meaning surrounding it...

Though we are familiar with biblical notions of the holy trinity being father son and holy ghost, there are other interpretations of this as well. For instance, there's father, mother, and child and body, mind, and spirit/soul. 

With each of these conceptions, I think about the role--or at least the potential for love to unify these entities which are often taken to be separate. 

This leads to my second thought,
When thinking about the notion that we are one, I think that this is the case because of the strong belief that we are God's creation. As such everything has an essence of God within, making us not that different from the people and things around us. We are all connected because of this. Understanding love to a fuller extent than we currently do should help us realize this connection and respond meaningfully to it. 

I think we do this on varying scales when we create through singing or making music, writing, doing art, playing (certain) sports.  I find that Catholicism and Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism through the practice of chanting are attempts at foraging this connection within ourselves with the intention of broadcasting this striving to other forces--all of which are inherently God-like. If we thought of ourselves as elements of God...hmmm...I just wonder about that. How would we act? Hopefully better... 

For now, we often think of ourselves and the components that make us who we are--mind, body, and spirit--as separate. Additionally, our characteristics are compartmentalized to the point where it can be difficult to think of the ways in which they are in fact unified within us. For instance, our positive and negative, masculine and feminine attributes, are often thought of as separate and often that one of each of these should be removed, ignored or simply eliminated.

The mistake in doing this is failure to recognize the value in each of these attributes and that these are what make us whole. The same goes for the connection between mind, body, and soul--as educated people we often are taught to neglect body and soul in favor of the mind, when it is important to view these facets of ourselves as valued and integral to our continued growth. Failure to do so creates the sense that something is missing and the longing to connect by accessing other faulty channels. 

What I continue to struggle with is accepting and making possible the unity between the positive and negative aspects of myself. I want so badly to do away with the negative side that plagues my being. I do not think it is good for me or others. It is difficult to imagine how this aspect and peacefully coincide with the other elements of myself. How can I think of my relationship with this brooding negative self differently than just being bad? I do want to be open to love yet cannot imagine how this can be done when so much negativity resides within...

In any case, our interaction with others is also affected by this paradigm of separation. We compartmentalize and thus marginalize and ignore others allowing for the potential to mistreat them to remain ever present. Fully actualized love allows us to think differently about this faulty separateness by demanding that we instead understand and perhaps embrace the other. This is the way toward loving one another. But we must be able to do this for ourselves as well.

By becoming competent in our understanding and practice of love for ourselves, we can then be able to comfortably practice with others effectively. It takes understanding, repetition, and practice--all of which takes time.

What do you think about all of this? 

Going on this journey of discovery, acceptance, and betterment is going to be difficult but it's about time I gave it an earnest try. It's still too easy to fall back on old ways of thought though...

Recommended reading:

The Art of Loving
Strength to Love
All About Love: New Visions

Well, until next time...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Unwelcome visit from an old friend

I was raised not to have a voice. Authoritarian conditioning made sure of this. I am therefore an awkward person at times. Unsure of what the right move is to make. Not sure that I am being taken seriously.

I have a speaking style and voice characterized as "funny". No wonder no one takes me seriously.

I was that kid in high school. The one that fit in nowhere. No one wanted anything to do with me if I wasn't fitting the mold cast by stereotypes and media images of "me". I was miserable, couldn't wait to leave home or high school. Can hardly seem to find a space where I am accepted as me; where I am taken seriously. Doesn't matter what I do to "earn" respect, because at the end of the day, I will be this short, mediocre, plain-looking, stony-faced person who talks funny. Always subject to humiliation at home and at school.

So picture me trying to be a teacher. I thought I was beyond this. Ready to become the person with little trace of these massive insecurities. Facilitating a class of kids barely out of high school. The high achievers. The underprivileged youth in need of a chance to "make it". This is their moment.

 So why are they acting like a bunch of entitled over-privileged spoiled kids that don't deserve sh*t? And why do I feel like the kid with negative 100 cool points angry for not being taken seriously?

I forget that I became an adult mentally as a child of 12, maybe younger. Knew how to navigate the adult world of saying and doing what those in power want  you to say and do in order to simply be left alone. Knew that power was coercive and violence was how respect was gained (knowledge that wasn't for me to obtain; simply to be aware of).   Knew that to be an adult meant being able to pay bills and thus keep a roof over my head. Survival was my area of expertise. Becoming a liberated being with a sense of freedom and empowerment was not a part of my programming.

 Coping with authoritarian styles meant having a cartoonishly violent imagination. Hypothesizing that all it would take for me to be validated as human being deserving of being taken seriously was a baseball bat to the kneecaps of those who thought otherwise. This type of joking goes well with Sis, who understands all too well my conditioning and resulting insecurities and also that I would never do such a thing in real life (thinking it is bad enough).

Overcoming such a mentality has been difficult; especially when it seems time and time again the humiliating ways of status quo norm enforcement remind me I do not belong or deserve to be taken seriously. A most recent incidence occurred in the "liberal" walls of academia in the "socially conscious" and "justice oriented" field of sociology.

In any case, I wonder how I can expect to be respected unless it's through coercion? This is not what I want of any position of leadership. In thinking that this is the only way to be treated decently, I know I am no different than my father and am justifying my upbringing as being warranted. I hate what that man has done to me in this respect. No matter how far I try to run situations like this have me confronting this deeply ingrained and hated aspect of myself.

 This is not who I want to be. It is certainly not who I am, for I am too weak to be such a person. But the fact that I am aware that this "persuasive" mode of power produces results in terms of being validated bothers the crap out of me. I don't want to become this person. I abhor this person and the system that produces and validates it. Love is not the end result of this type of exercise of power only fear and hatred.

I want to overcome this and be the loving and happy person that I aspire to be. A positive beacon to those around me; especially those that have gone without. I want to be a beacon of love in the work that I want to do. I want to give of myself and be empowered when doing so.

But when situations like the one I faced today occur--with people for whom I wish to be a positive beacon only to have them peel back hardened scar tissue--I find myself face to face with this old  hurt and angry friend with the cartoonishly violent imagination coping with humiliation and powerlessness (the one who seems to understand).

If I were to have a conversation with this "friend"  and the positive person I aspire to be about trying to transcend this sort of inward and outward oppression and my reaction to wounding experiences, it would (at the moment) sound like this song (which has so many different meanings for me depending on the weather it seems).

Thanks for "listening". Until next time...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Re: Research Ideas: Comic Related pt. 2

So, yeah, I watched X-Men First Class this weekend and had my super cool research idea blown out of the water (cause it's already been thought about)! Oh well, so much for "original" research ideas. Some day I will strike research idea gold (does this occurring in my dreams count?).

Is it just me that thinks that fantasy oriented flicks re-writing all kinds of history is interesting in a problematic way? Especially if people take it seriously? Being so far removed from historical events re-imagined on film doesn't help matters any.

There I go again problematizing things that shouldn't matter. When will I learn?!

Until next time...

Friday, September 30, 2011

What am I doing again?

For the first time in my long tenure of schooling, I saw that I may well be wasting my time with what could easily be described as bs (sorry but swearing is so unnatural for me). Graduate school has already been a trying journey for me and it doesn't seem to be getting any easier now that I've lost my way.

What I mean by this is interacting with scholars and scholarship that is utterly meaningless to my goal of addressing and changing social problems; especially those that deal (in one way or another) in oppression. I realize this aim is way too vague a way of saying I want to help people and that my scholarship and attaining this status of Ph.D. is the only way I can imagine of being of any real help. I want to find solutions to issues powerless individuals deal with, thereby being a barrier breaker or at least a bridge maker of sorts.

Throughout my travels in academia, I've made it a point to put to use (or at least try to) any sort of scholarship I came across towards this goal. My current academic endeavors (of witnessing the compartmentalization that comes with the 'creation' of a 'new' space of knowledge by way of theorizing how to track 'global' media culture a la the thingification of something or other in children's toy movies, thus making it difficult for someone to have agency over their experience of something that does nothing for people living lives that deal in/directly with inequalities ), and hanging out with people smart enough to see through the bs of these endeavors, has made me question myself and what I'm doing; and not in that reactionary way where my self-esteem has been challenged via humiliation.

How can I use these pockets of 'knowledge' that seem so useless to people? I wouldn't dare tell those close to me about these things I'm 'learning' because a huge who cares would be in their words and stares.  Nothing screams out the  frivolity of upper-class tendencies than participating in some of these conversations being had. I've never felt that way about my studies until now. I need to do something productive about this discomfort fast because I really do want my Ph.D. But I also want what I eventually do and what I am doing now to matter, or at least be a step in the right direction of realizing this goal. Silencing the experiences and struggles of the 'real' world by dwelling on how our fantasy worlds are constructed and exist seems a bit of a misguided step backwards for me.

I am in serious need of guidance right now.

Until next time....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Re: Drinkin'

So, a while ago I revealed my general dislike for most alcoholic beverages except the really sweet ones. I might have even mentioned that if Ocean Spray decided to make alcohol, however, that I might be in trouble when it comes to becoming an alcoholic (jokingly of course because I generally exercise good judgement). Well, thanks to Really Cool Guy, that moment has arrived. You see, he introduced me to a drink called Lambic. Here's one explanation for it. I have another one: magic. Never did I expect to find a beer that tastes so wonderful! My favorite flavors are frambois (raspberry) and peach. Finally, a drink that matches my preferred outlook on life (or at least what it could be)-- sweet, good, and generally pleasant. Those of you who are opposed to bitter alcoholic beverages like me must taste to believe! Really, it's like happiness in a bottle (you can see me smiling just thinking about it)!

That's all for now.

Until next time...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Full Metal Alchemist ponderings pt. 3: The Quest for Greatness

***Disclaimer: It's been more than a few months since I've seen this series. I might not be remembering things  as correctly as I should. Please, offer scrutiny but be kind about mis-stated events.***

To start off, I love the idea this show has communicated about alchemy; that it is the act of breaking something down to its elements and using those elements to create something seemingly completely different...

So, after having dinner with a few friends, and speaking with one who had seen the show with her children, I was thrown back into pondering aspects of the show that seemed poignant. When this "Wannabe Nerd" (according to her child the "Real Nerd") started speaking about the role of the homunculi as the seven deadly sins, I was reminded once more of my love for this show.

You see the character "Father" is an artificial being, a homunculus who takes on human qualities after making contact with human blood. "Father" is a brilliant being, even before taking on physical qualities of "humanity". Despite "his" brilliance, "Father" quests for the status of Godliness--going so far as to consume it--and believes that doing so requires the purging of "his" flaws; from which the homunculi--each carrying the name and quality of  one of the seven deadly sins--are "created".

This purging, however, proved to be "Father's" downfall since "he" failed to acknowledge that these "flaws" are what make "him" whole and are thus necessary components of "his" being. The  status of deity could never be realized because "Father" never saw "himself"--as "he" was originally--as great. "Father" only noticed "flaws" and while purging "himself" of them, neglected to realize that "his" quest was one that was saturated by these very "flaws" "he" chose to deny about "himself". Apologies for the redundance and/or lack of clarity.

All of this makes me wonder about who our "Fathers" are in our lives or society? These artificial beings or entities on a quest for perfection--even God-like status--but wrought with unacknowledged contradictions. Entities ultimately responsible for the loss of billions of lives because of this quest (it was "Father" who had the knowledge of how to create a philosopher's stone and used others to help "him" bring it to reality). Entities that attempt to rid themselves of perceived flaws that are actually necessary aspects of their beings.

For me these artificial beings--or homunculi--take many forms: religions, knowledge, progress, myths, other social constructions... Social things that might not have started off as evil in their intentions but because of the lack of inward recognition of what makes them whole, became oppressive and therefore evil.

Inside of ourselves even, we are taught to purge ourselves of "flaws" because they limit us, when perhaps it is the act of doing this that is limiting in its counterproductivity. Why not understand these aspects of ourselves and our worlds since they are what make us whole?

I think of the idea stated about alchemy stated earlier and think about how we try to do this with ourselves; trying to create a greater element, a greater person or world, but when the essential elements--things we might not realize are essential--are taken out of the mix, how can it be expected that the result will be "golden" when those key ingredients have been taken out? It should be expected that nothing short of disaster  results in not valuing what was already there.

So in seeing ourselves as we are, and seeing the greatness in that, we are acknowledging our Godliness though we appear not to be in that form? Perhaps that's what I've taken from this aspect of the show. If lead can be turned to gold--assuming the same elemental ingredients are involved--we should see ourselves as beings that possess similar qualities right? This then confuses me when it comes to the concept of equivalent exchange--which is a concept that is scrutinized yet valued when it comes to Ed giving up a part of himself for his brother Al (and others along the way). Ah I'm not exactly sure how this fits into my musing. Maybe it doesn't.

Well now all I need to do is figure out what this looks like for myself and how I engage my social worlds...
What would it look like for you?

Thoughts are welcome and appreciated as usual.

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Slowing Down

Well, after today, I will be slowing down on the posting front. School's a comin' and I've got to get ready. Once school starts things will really be slow. I will continue to see this blog as a space to articulate and digest any thoughts and happenings that occur throughout my journey. Until then, I continue to look forward to any connections, insights and general feedback or conversation about anything posted or un-posted.

Take it easy and be well...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Areas of Study

As a graduate student, I feel the mounting pressures of trying to pigeon-hole myself in a way only academics can; by claiming areas of 'expertise'. What do I want to become somewhat fluent in? I've been thinking about this lately and have yet to come up with definitive answers. Instead I've come up with more worries, chief among them being claiming expertise in an area that is rather obscure from an academic's perspective.

What I would like to be able to do is use my education and 'expertise' to serve as a bridge for those--be they in higher education or some other professional realm--in need of assistance with overcoming obstacles seen and unseen. I want to help individuals, especially underrepresented ones, navigate these realms successfully. I want to also challenge and disrupt the status quo of the institutions and underlying structures that make it difficult for certain populations to succeed. Making change to these things would make it easier for others to thrive where they otherwise wouldn't (or at least that's what the idealist in me would like to think).

How does this translate when it comes 'claiming' an area of expertise? What does this mean I want to do? All I know is that I would like to work towards the betterment of humanity in general, but I don't know where that fits me academically. In addition I would love to infuse these desires with art, be it through photography, film, painting, drawing, graphic novels...I enjoy telling the stories of others as well as the stories dwelling within myself. I think it helps us understand who we are and reminds us of what we are capable of--for better or for worse. In fact I was hoping for part of my dissertation to be a documentary.

Today I met a gentleman who got a interdisciplinary Ph.D. in political science, criminal justice and fine art. How cool is that? Part of his dissertation was doing a series of paintings. His defense involved his committee and others exploring the integration of the three areas in his project. I want to be able to do something like this. Something that calls to me, yet is beneficial to others as well. I only hope to be so lucky as to find a space like this. Still, I don't know where to fit myself in...

Oh well. Until next time...

Monday, August 8, 2011


I'll be brief. Today was a good day. My Little One was happy for most of the day.

 I didn't get much work done today, but the exciting thing was that the books I've been jonesin' for came into the library today. Finally! Now, if I only had the discipline to read them and the other stack of library books I've got before school starts. Only in an awesomely awesome world where I am the most disciplined reader ever. Still, gotta love those books! Every time a book request comes in it's like Christmas!

Until next time...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Growing Up Is Overrated

So today, I was the only one of a group of adults--parents to be specific--that took part in an obsticle course  designed primarily for our children. Boy was it fun, but I am certain I looked like an idiot in front of the others, even if they said nothing of it. Only my Mate gave words of encouragement veiled by his own shame of being guilty (of being a dork) by association. Oh well.

After doing the obstacle course, I realized--once again--that I am out of shape! The 'child's play'   that comes with such activities as obstacle courses and jungle gyms are great tools of fitness! Why they cut us off by middle school is a mystery to me. Perhaps it is the symbolic beginning of the end of childhood. Still, I have fun running through one with my Little One! Some day I will get the best of those Monkey Bars once more.

Which got me to thinking, why couldn't there just be giant playgrounds for fun-loving adults like me? I miss playing like this. Working out for me has to be fun or else I'm not nearly as dedicated or willing. Running? Not unless I'm running from something or chasing it, i.e. in competitive sports like football, ultimate Frisbee, soccer or racing. I love having fun with my physical activity, something that seems to have been taken away with growing up (which along with the sedentary lifestyle that comes with graduate school is likely why I'm so flabby--boo!).

Why should growing up have to mean massive limitations on what was fun for us as children? I think along with 'education' killing off creativity likely to be considered 'child-like', loss of the opportunities to play contributes with the unhappiness adults may have as they continue 'growing up'. I know I'd be a whole lot happier if I had an adult-sized obstacle course or jungle gym (complete with giant slide) to play on daily. Being 'in shape' wouldn't even be a thought, just like when we were kids, because we were already 'in shape' enough to run after each other and play on such cool toys. This leads me to believe that the emphasis on growing up is alarmingly overrated and perhaps harmful in a way.

After hearing a story made up by my Little One, a woman commented that from the age of two to [I can't remember when] that children are on another planet. I imagine the only reason they return is because we adults and our realities slowly erode their rocket ships and eventually send them crashing back to 'earth'. I feel bad for my Little One in this sense because I would never want the joy that usually consumes his face and being to be extinguished. If only the meaning of growing up were altered to be welcoming of children or at least 'child-like' mentalities.

Well, I guess in my own way, I refuse to grow up completely. Lately this just means that I'm a goofy kid who is still willing to try anything, be it physical, spiritual, or edible--within reason of course. In safe spaces, I'll even bust out my ridiculously goofy smile at moments of silliness, or when a funny thought crosses my mind. Heck I still try and tell my "jokes" and laugh at them too! Maybe my Little One has hope after all!

Until next time...  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ways of thinking about Love

I've been pondering this for a while, but never tried to articulate it until yesterday. How love could be thought about outside of taken for granted notions is not an easy feat. In fact this pondering is a contradiction to how I currently act on love. But here is some of what I've been thinking...

Love is like the sun. It is something that is enjoyed by everyone to a certain degree. Many have different relationships with the sun but seem to appreciate it no less.  The sun is not something that can be possessed by a single person or a group of people, it is for all to share and live with as they see fit. In fact, it would be quite wrong for someone to withhold the sun if they could, because that person would be denying the rest of humanity the benefits of having the sun, thus doing humanity a great disservice. Perhaps love can be thought of in this way.

Each of us can be thought of as a multifaceted fragment of sun. Each one of us can benefit from one another in various ways. It would be wrong to solely possess this benefit, denying others the chance to do the same (benefit from this individual's presence). Yet with the kind of possessive love that is so much a part of our culture, this is what we are expected to do when we find that special person. Does doing this in the long run, deny others of benefiting from this individual in similar or other varied ways, and thus deny a possible bettering of humanity by doing so?  Should love, then, be thought of more on the level of deep companionship rather than as a romantic venture? A form of relationship where everyone can potentially benefit from each other because there is no sense of possession involved?

While I can see this kind of love being the case for companionship, I wonder if it couldn't also be the case romantically as well? All relationships are multifaceted and how we benefit from one another is no different. So, were this notion to apply to romantic as well as non-romantic settings, would it still be possible for love to be thought of in a manner where all can benefit? Where there is no sense of ownership?

I think love should be regarded as the sun, and that we should be free to benefit from one another without the sense of entitlement and ownership that is so infused in our culture. I'm not saying to be careless with one another (like in the 'free love' era when disease began to run rampant), but to be respectful, like we are with the sun. We know of and appreciate its qualities, harmful and beneficial. We know how to live with it responsibly and (I would like to think) we don't take it for granted. If we treat one another in similar ways, caring for and about our multifaceted selves when acting in the name of love, humanity might be a more beautiful place. We might become more beautiful people whom do not feel limited by the sense of possession that is a part of modern notions of love.

What would it mean to let go, and allow for this kind of love to come to fruition? I have no idea. I would like to think it would mean greater opportunities to learn, grow and understand myself by having a deeper sense of communion with others. I would like to think that it means taking actions towards being beneficial to and benefited by others and working towards the betterment of humanity.

Romantically, I also have no idea. There would be no sense of ownership perhaps, should the sun analogy be followed. This could mean ideas surrounding what it means to be in a romantic relationship are restructured with the removal of jealousy if we truly have respect for the others right to flourish and have their own speck of sun shine to its potential. Perhaps there would be no need for this type of relationship structure or at least a in a permanent sense.

Who knows? I haven't done any reading on the subject, these are just my thoughts on the matter. Others who might have mulled this over in other ways might have more to contribute. I would appreciate any added insight on the matter myself. I doubt I'm on to anything special, but it's a conversation I would like to have none the less.

Until next time...

Friday, August 5, 2011

How DJing is like Research

After being inspired by this post on DJing, I began revisiting ideas of the similarities between being a DJ and being a researcher/scholar. Being a DJ myself (when I have the chance) I love it when I have a set that flows together and wish my research came out similarly, which is how I began thinking about the subject. Here are a few of the ideas I had about the topic.

For one thing, like a researcher/scholar, DJs have to know their music. This usually means they've heard the stuff they play hundreds of times. Not only that, but they get a feel for the themes in their music enough to fit things comfortably together in ways others might not have noticed otherwise. Researchers and scholars do this, only with books instead of music. With both repetition is key to becoming familiar with both sets of knowledge.

There is also a air of expertise required in each realm. DJs have flexibility and freedom of choice as to what their area of 'expertise' is. For some, this can be rather fluid and expansive. Research is kind of the same, except for there are other forces that dictate what one can and cannot do. Often what is and isn't considered research dictates what a researcher/scholar does. When treated in such an orthodox manner, research/scholarship becomes rather restrictive and thus lacking in soul. With DJing on the other hand, a DJ is free to infuse their craft with their personality. Depending on the setting, I like to communicate messages of love thematically. In other words, I think it is easier for DJs to have a voice through their craft that is not nearly as transparent in research/scholarship.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. Maybe thinking of research like DJing might change the way I pursue it. But it's not nearly as simple. For one thing, DJs have a choice of what their model is and can make their own rules when it comes to constructing it. Researchers/scholars have to read stuff they do and don't want to, and most of it wouldn't be read otherwise. Quite frankly some of the stuff I have to read makes my eyeballs want to bleed--probably because I also want to stab them out.  Not the case with DJing where I do not have to suffer and most of the stuff I like is more like crack to me than a royal pain--especially when finding a musical gem. Not very many books do that for me. Oh well, I'll do my best to try integrating the thoughts I have about DJing into doing research since, regardless of my experiences in reading some of this stuff, I really do want to become a scholar with my voice and soul in tact.

If there are any additional thoughts on this topic along with maybe making scholarship more like DJing in spirit, or just other things that should be considered, feel free to contribute your ideas. As usual, I'm open to them.

Until next time...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sex (or my adventure in pushing topic boundaries)

So, maybe this post is more about sexuality--i.e. sexual identity.

Is it important to have one? To be affirmed as having one? Is this an important aspect of who we are as individuals? Sure Cosmo would like us to think so along with shows like Sex in the City (which I have yet to see but know people who have), but what's the big deal?

When it comes to discovering myself I seem to be placing less and less emphasis on this. In my late teens/early twenties this was a different story since sex was new to me and thus very exciting. However, because of my awkwardness, and growing lack of interest in following magazine advice, I slowly began to wonder, who am I kidding? None of this is who I am. Sure I'm a sucker for romance but not when its rather transparent as to its purpose. I wish there were a such thing as sexuality being natural, but alas, like love and other forms/means of relation/expression, this too is learned to a large extent.

Yes, there's just knowing whom one is attracted to but beyond that lies "forbidden" and thus unexamined territory. No one in this efficiently shaming culture of ours dares properly teach us about this stuff (I can't even begin to imagine how it might be done). No labels are available for how one likes their experience to feel; such vocabulary seems nonexistent. The stuff that is out there I, once again, do not seem to find interest with.

Which again begs the question, is it really that important that this side of ourselves be well developed in order to be considered whole? My Mate is very sure of himself as a sexual being and knows his desires well. He is certain that this side of himself is not to be neglected. For myself, I am the exact opposite. Maybe it's because I have so much I need to learn but I wonder what the point of it is.  Like my venture with statistics, sexuality for me has been a bumbling venture I am just no good at, making the idea of confident self-assertion rather humorous if not humiliating.

At the moment  I am certain developing this side of myself will not make me a better person, which is why I wonder about the significance of sexuality (the same goes for pursuing statistics simply because it will make me a better researcher).  It is also why I am willing to pass it off as a rather pointless venture that is only self-serving in the long run. But in doing this am I in some way denying myself the potential to become more whole (whatever that may mean)? No I have not stopped having sex, I just don't take it as seriously as others and especially our misguided culture seems to.

Those with differing experiences that might be informative about the subject are welcome to express their thoughts. I haven't completely closed my mind off to the possibility of exploring sexuality as an identity marker, just heavily questioning it is all.

By the way, I am normally not this candid about anything but I figured this is a fairly unexamined issue that might be in need of examination. For me, this might mean understanding myself a little better. Oh well, what will be of this post will be I guess. Thanks for venturing!

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What I think of My Blog Lately

Maybe I'm feeling lazy about writing today. Can't think of much except this musical reflection of my blog:

Haw haw! As of yet, I am unsure of the persona I want this blog to have. I just hope it doesn't seem too preachy and self-absorbed despite its intentions. Suppose I have been taking myself a bit too seriously; oh well. Beyond introspection I am hoping to begin conversation which means I hope to do more reaching out with future posts. But until then...

Catch ya later...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Clouds and Over-coming

There was a moment I remember so vividly I wrote a poem about it. It was late fall, and I was embroiled in issues--most of them stemming from graduate school. This moment likely dictated the way I viewed the following scene.

Evening clouds from an earlier storm were like gray cotton in a darkening sky. The sun finally made an appearance, though it was mostly from under the clouds. It's light gave the clouds dark smoky coral highlights. It made the clouds look scary-beautiful. At the top of a hill I was walking, I saw the sun's rays beaming behind a set of clouds, lining its edges with a burning bright light. I finally understood the phrase "every cloud has a silver lining" upon seeing it.

I was so struck by this imagery that I could not help but eventually construct the following poem yet to be titled:

Every cloud is lined with a bright burning light
Showing us that the sun is there shining, waiting
The contours of the clouds show us their complexity
Shaping and being shaped by the elements—even the sun

Clouds serve as barriers to the sun and sky
Barriers like those that are socially constructed 
Giving off the appearance of stone
When they are nothing more than clouds
Shaping and being shaped

We know they cannot, do not block the sun forever
So too with barriers
Which is why we must
Keep reaching
I hope it's as inspirational to others as it has been for me.  

Until next time...

Monday, August 1, 2011

What Does It Mean to "Level Up"?

So, I just got done reading Level Up by Gene Luen Yang. Good stuff. I'll try not to give too much away. Got me to thinking however, about what I'm going to do when I finally 'grow up'. For those of us still searching for that answer, we hear and believe in the idea that we should do what makes us happy. Unfortunately for me, I haven't found that thing that I'm addicted to in a sense that is seemingly purposeful. For instance, I do not think eternally dancing to James Pants' sets could possibly translate into something meaningful--that and JP doesn't come to my neck of the woods nearly enough for dancing to be even thought of as a constant. I do enjoy competitive athletics, but the same applies in this situation too--and there also have been painfully few opportunities to be involved in any sort of athleticism since I began graduate school. 

For the most part, I've just been doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I am searching for what I love in the process (I might be on the right track with engaging in art and storytelling alongside my scholarship) but how to navigate these waters and still have promising career prospects is rather dubious. I wish for the connection between doing what I love and doing what is beneficial for humanity to become clear at some point. For now, I am not sure how to begin searching for this balance in trying to 'grow up' yet doing well for myself, my family and humanity. Or maybe I should be thinking about this differently. I'm not sure but it's something I'll be meditating on from time to time as I try to find my way. 

Any thoughts or guidance on this topic would be nice. Especially for those of you pondering similar things. 

Well, until next time...

Sunday, July 31, 2011


After revisiting the past with a former colleague of mine, I feel unsure of myself once more. Our entire conversation wasn't centered around me but the politics surrounding my exit from a graduate program I was once in.  Clearly, I do not want to go into details, but I need to articulate how I've come to view the situation and that is this...


I'm a reserved and quite shy person. Only once, when it was clear I was being arbitrarily torn to shreds, did I have the nerve to raise my voice to a 'superior'--and that really is saying something that me yelling at an 'authority figure' ever came to pass. Otherwise, I did nothing to step on anyone's toes. In fact, I avoided it at all costs.

I feel, that was part of the problem. There was no confidence on my end to approach anyone--professors that is--because I didn't feel I could trust them. Speaking to other friends--who left by the way--I knew to step carefully around these individuals. It takes a lot to trust another individual, especially one with power. I want to be able to relate on a level deeper than professionalism. A level where I can be myself, yet still be supported as a scholar with ideas. I couldn't detect a space where this would be possible, so I stayed silent until I forced myself into a relationship with faculty as a means of survival. I couldn't get my Master's without a committee after all. And that's when things gradually went south.

On both counts my failure to act on my intuition cost me dearly. I worry about the new program I will be starting this fall. I want to be myself yet be empowered as well. I don't think these things should be contradictory. I know I need to be confident and assertive. I hope I've ended up in an environment that supports me as a person, which will lend to my comfort and thus my confidence.

I do intend to get my Ph.D. and begin making good on my desire to do right by others, supporting those who need it most by being where I am needed most. I know this is a rather vague desire that is by no means a concrete plan, but I am open to moving towards the direction of how this desire materializes.

I know this post was a bit scattered but I thought I'd at least get this off my brain. Thanks for 'listening'.

Until next time...

Saturday, July 30, 2011


And now for another light-hearted materialistic post...

So, my feet are busted. By that I mean, they swell for no apparent reason (it cost over 700 dollars in tests, x-rays and ultrasounds for doctors to say "I don't know why your feet are swelling"). This has been going on for 3+ years. Now, I'm a size 12 pant size, and have been for over 5 years so, I don't think my size has anything to do with it.

Any how, 'girly' shoes like Mary-Janes, or ballet flats are no longer an option. For a while, I even gave up on wearing shorts and skirts in the summer time. Now I figure, life is too short (no pun intended) to limit my clothing options to pants for the rest of my life. The problem with my new-found resolve is the limited spectrum in shoes available for my perpetually swollen feet and ankles. Firstly, I do not know how noticeable this problem is for others. Still, the only thing I can get away with wearing with shorts and skirts (and even pants) are sneakers and flip-flops. Girly flip-flops still abide by the dainty foot principle so with dressier models and their thin straps, its easy to see flesh bulging around them. So I've been relying on the male versions, which are much more foot friendly when it comes to comfort.

In fact, as of late, I've favored male versions of sneakers for quite some time. I like that men's feet are not expected to be dainty, which means I can by the size I wear and not have to worry about discomfort. Yes, I suppose, I do favor men's (and unisex) shoes for this reason. If only I could find some that I could wear with shorts, skirts and pants. For now, the only shoes I can wear regularly with shorts and mini-skirts are my really old and dingy Rod Lavers. With longer skirts, my Payless version Converses seem to do the trick (except when the shoes look oddly pointy and misshapen around my swollen feet).

Slacks are becoming an issue too. I want to have a sense of finesse when I dress--especially for my upcoming jobs, but the casual shoes available do not favor my feet. I miss the 'bowling' style shoes that were around in the 2002-2004-ish era. You know the one that seemed to go with jeans and slacks and just seemed so cool in general? Anyone remember those? I wish those type of shoes still existed. Now that they've gone the way of being ultra-feminine, I just can't seem to win. Unless someone knows something I don't--please, please share if so; I don't internet shop on the regular so any word on cool shoes would help. Otherwise, I don't see what's wrong with wearing Converses with slacks, especially for slighltly laid-back atmospheres.

Any suggestions for shoe choices are welcome. As you might have guessed, I'm not all that 'fem' when it comes to shoes. Heck, I don't even wear make-up and I have a bit of a nail-biting problem (a holdover from childhood). I like to be 'fem' in my own way I guess, which means I say no to shoes that are supposed to make feet look small. What can I say, I'm a sucker for comfort (but a sucker for style too)!

Well thanks for 'listening'.  Until next time...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Views on Drinkin' (and general Inebriation)

So, often times I feel the need to defend my drinking preferences. Why? Because I don't drink beer, "real" wine, or other alcoholic beverages that, in my mind, taste like poison. Most of these beverages are too bitter in taste. I like for my experiences to be aesthetically pleasing, and that goes for all the senses involved. If I'm gonna drink, I'm going to enjoy it! And what do I enjoy? Sugar of course! I like drinks that are sweet and emulate juices and other tasty treats (Jolly Rancher anyone?). So when I do buy wine, I'm pickin' up some Arbor Mist. If Ocean Spray starts making alcoholic beverages I could be in danger of becoming an alcoholic (an exaggeration of course since I have a good hold on my self-control). Sure these types of drinks are considered foofy and girly, but what does this mean about 'acceptable' drinking choices? They're considered manly firstly , and just plain status-quo as a result. But really, if something that tastes like poison is an 'acquired' taste what is someone forcing themselves to do? Like poison? Believe the purpose of drinking is to get drunk as fast as possible? Well count me out! I like my fruity drinks because I want to enjoy the experience of inebriation (yep, I'm what you'd call a 'happy' drunk).

Besides I feel that the preference of taste in alcoholic drinks (and maybe the type of 'drunk' one gets) says something about one's outlook on life. For me, regardless of what has happened so far, I believe life is good and sweet (and I want to continue believing this). Being someone who becomes super happy (and even lovey though in private) when tipsy, I think represents my deep desire to be this kind of happy, joyful and carefree more of the time than I am and do at present.

This doesn't mean that I try to get drunk as quickly as possible. In fact, I've had one hangover in my life and do not wish to repeat this experience. I was 25, hanging out with friends and no immediate responsibilities in Hawaii. Needless to say, the next day no amount of water and aspirin could relieve me of the horrible headache that lasted all day. In any case, I'm a lightweight as it is so it doesn't take long for me to get tipsy, and I know how to navigate my limits.

In any case, I do not drink that often, maybe once every few months. When it comes to life in general, my take on it is to experience it as cleanly as possible. I suppose I just like knowing that most of what I've felt and experienced in life is real and on my own terms. So, I'm not one to give into the hype of trying things for the sake of trying them--it's never been something I've been interested in. This makes me a rather boring person compared to my friends, but I don't care. No judgments on my end, that's just my outlook on how I would like to experience my life in general.

Well that's it for now. Up next, yet  another trivial topic...SHOES!

Until next time...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ways of Seeing and Understanding

In a few of my posts, I've made references to little and great understanding. This post is an attempt at rectifying the mistake of not explaining what any of this means. My thoughts on this subject are derived from "Provoked by Astonishment: Seeing and Understanding in Inquiry" by Allan Neilsen in the book Provoked by Art: Theorizing Arts-informed Research and edited volume. Related thoughts will likely refer to The Eternal Smile by Derek Kirk Kim and Gene Luen Yang. I hope this ramble is accessible to everyone even though it's origins come from my encounters with academia...

When it comes to thinking about how things are understood and how this understanding is communicated, in American academia and culture in general, understanding is done in a way that leaves little room for alternatives. For example, when I teach my four-year-old to do something, from that point on, unless told otherwise, that is the only way it can be done. Adults, I've observed, are the same way it seems; closed to alternatives once one way of understanding something has been communicated.

I find this way of being to be quite oppressive, especially when it comes to expressing myself or attempting to express knowledge in general. There is more than one way to know and understand. Why should I be punished because I do not do it exactly your way (and by your I mean the status-quo--the way of doing and being considered to be mainstream)?

Well, thank goodness I am not the only one who feels this way. Books have been written challenging and--for me--presenting differing ways to look at and understand things that have offered a bit of hope and happiness for me as a continual learner. This was especially the case after reading A.Neilsen's "Provoked by Astonishment...". This piece emphasizes the importance of being open to astonishment since it "creates opportunity for insight and understanding by disrupting the busyness and unmindfulness of everyday existence" (56).  By being open to the unexpected we are also open to all sorts of possibilities when it comes to knowing and understanding something, we are able to break free of stifling conventions. Which brings me to "little" and "great" understanding.

The state of "Little Understanding" is one that consists of  the "constricted awareness and discriminatory thinking" that is a part of standardized modes of doing and being. Additionally, this state is mandated by thoughts of how things should or ought to be and apprehensions of what could be and are thus limiting and restrictive (56-57).

The state of "Great Understanding" is one that consists of being in "a contemplative state that allows us to be in the moment, to be knocked to the ground in astonishment, to see with new eyes" (57).

 This brings me to observe a theme I found in D.K.Kim & G.L.Yang's The Eternal Smile. First off I highly recommend this book 'cause it's awesome! Apologies for the spoiler but--and maybe those of you who have read  this saw other things--I found the theme of this piece (yes I know it's three stories) to be that of ways of seeing. For these three stories this was presented via fantasy and its role in allowing the characters in each tale to see or maybe examine their lives--summed up well in the third story "Urgent Request" when proposing that fantasy is not simply a means of escape but a way in which one can see (so cool!). I see certain tales of fantasy like this much of the time and am often astonished by the messages and their relation to real-life. Sometimes I think people tell stories for this very reason. No wonder I like stuff like FMA so much!

Ahem...back to the rest of the post...

Despite the attractiveness of states of Great Understanding, valuing the importance of both states is necessary (although sometimes I do wonder). This means not forsaking one for the other but being able to "preserve and transcend" states of Little Understanding as a means of becoming "whole"(57). This is important to understanding which requires being "in the moment" and being able to "apprehend experience holistically," and to "connect" (58).This is what I want my travels in academia and life in general to be about.

I couldn't be happier to have stumbled across this nugget of understanding and can hope that along my journey I am able to attain states of Great Understanding while not treating Little Understanding as a nemesis of sorts. I hope reading the books mentioned in this post will be as helpful to you as it has been for me. Please feel free to add, challenge, expand, or whatever about this topic. Any related book, movie or show suggestions would also be nice!

Recommended reading:
American Born Chinese
Level Up
Three Day Road
Days of War, Nights of Love

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


After a conversation with my Sis the other day, I figured I should attempt to better articulate my thoughts about relationships and how they function--or maybe how people within them function.

In any case, I found myself ranting about how ill-prepared individuals are for not only understanding what love is and how it works but how relationships based on faulty notions of love work. I am not speaking as an expert on love or relationships--my first post says as much--I am speaking as someone who has observed the hold individualism has on American culture (overly generalized I know). Despite our upbringings, as adults, especially newly independent ones, we understand--through interactions with one another, and especially media and marketing of products that project what the 'ideal' person should look like, do, dress and be like in general--what it means to live for ourselves. With no one to answer to, its easy to relish in this sense of 'freedom' and with it we understand that we don't have to compromise what we believe to be part of our identities--even though the people and situations we interact with  prove these identities are forever growing and changing.

It seems the only moments we are willing to compromise ourselves is in situations that we want to look 'good' in. A lot goes into looking good in relationships, especially at the beginning. Things are overlooked in our quest for acceptance and throughout a 'courtship' failure to be 'true' to oneself runs rampant. Once committed to this other person, love is often stereotyped as the magic elixir that will guide the way and make everything work out. Some even understand that work is involved in relationships--work in keeping it together. But for what purpose? And beyond initial commitment that 'true self' that has been neglected is longed for as situations that led to initial denials of self repeat themselves--which only leads to future insecurities and misery. On top of this, that sense of individuality has never really been abandoned despite the attempts at togetherness.

We never are taught what love is, how relationships should work or function, or our individual roles in making  future relationships a livable reality. We were never taught how to accept our true selves, how to truly accept others for who they are, how to live in intimate settings where the two can peacefully coincide without false understandings of compromise, and belief in 'no pain, no gain'.  (And maybe figuring out if it is worth committing to someone we truly do understand  to some extent--especially when it comes to deeply inherent flaws that might be near impossible to overcome?) Most importantly it seems, we have never learned how to live without the individualism that places ourselves at the center of our own universe. Or maybe its learning to balance out this sense of self with one that is adept at communalism as well (individualism shouldn't necessarily be demonized right?). Despite all of this, we are somehow expected to know how to flourish in relationships and the pressure to do so is great.

In any case, these sets of knowledge have all but been abandoned and replaced by faulty magical love--the kind of desire for instant gratification that seems so much a part of American culture at least. This is the real work that needs to be realized about relationships and our ability to really relate and coincide with one another.  Often it seems the weight and pressure that crumbles relationships is the weight surrounding the ignorance of these things. Not to mention not knowing  or being ourselves, operating under faulty masks of acceptance that was never there and other things all out of the greed that comes from wanting and continuing what is/was believed to be a wonderful occurrence--love.

What I have observed about relationships and love in this day and age, is that there is a lot that has not been acknowledged about them and is difficult to learn (how can you learn something that isn't and hasn't been spoken about in your--and other--lifetime(s)?).  As such relationships and love have been fused with consumerist and instantly gratifying ways of being that are part of a culture of individualism. These things happen and are maintained by magic. Efforts put into sustaining this magic are misunderstood and misplaced, never addressing the issues at hand.

At this rate, it seems if one were to actively engage in learning about these things, one wouldn't be ready to pursue a decent relationship until...well later than her/his 30s ( an exaggeration of course since I have no idea how long such a journey would take). As for me, like I might have mentioned in my first post, understanding myself, love, relationships and my choice of commitment is a personal journey I'm taking on solo. I have a lot to learn in each of the areas mentioned above, especially balancing out the desire for individualism with learning to live in a deeply communal sense. Personal issues abound as well since I did not have the best (in fact it was likely the worst) model to work from when it comes to understanding love, relationships and most of all, acceptance of self and others (since being highly critical in a negative sense was a skill I learned from the best, yet loathe to no end). Based on this and other posts, I should (and almost have  at times) run off my Mate long ago. Yeah, I have a lot I need to work out in trying to pursue a better self and relationship.

In any case, this is but a one, maybe two-dimensional way of looking at the workings and understandings of love and relationships. This and many of the other spouty posts aren't likely to be followed up by research that would add meaning or depth any time soon. As always, I am open to other angles left unexplored, unimagined and etcetera about this topic. Despite my tones of factual-ness (blasted academia!)  I have a lot to learn and think about in my journey towards becoming a better human being --something I have learned I cannot simply rely on others to bring about in myself.  I hope others have thoughts and experiences they would like to contribute nonetheless.  Is this a realistic take on love and relationships? What is missing? Too much negativity and cynicism? What are more positive outlooks? (Maybe I'll engage some of these questions in later posts who knows?)

Thanks again for 'listening'
Until next time...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Research Ideas: Comic related pt.2

So, here is another idea I've been trying to work out in my mind. I'm not sure if it should be classified as research  since it is more of a story proposal regarding the mutant side of the Marvel Universe.

The notion of this proposal is the theorizing of the origins of mutant kind. I derived the idea from the Truth: Red White and Black book that tells of the origins of Captain America which was discussed briefly in the last post. I thought it would be interesting if it were discovered that mutant kind was actually created by human hands. The explanation for this coming from the decades that humanity has lived with chemicals and pollutants that have come to be disastrous for the surrounding environment. I realize this takes the mutant timeline only as far back as maybe the industrial revolution, but there are already a million alternate universes in Marvel, one more wouldn't hurt. As I was saying, this explanation would also chronicle large scale global environmental disasters like Hiroshima, Chernobyl and conflicts using chemical warfare among others. Long standing nuclear experiments and the proximity within which groups have lived by factories would also be taken into account along with increased reliance on medications, food additives, pesticides, bug sprays and so on. Any and everything humanity has lived with for the sake of an 'improved' standard of life.

Wouldn't it be interesting to ponder the extent to which this reality affects humanity. What if it genetically altered humans to the extent that another 'race' of humans emerged. Sure it would be tough to make a leap as  drastic as having powers but in the realm of fiction, what isn't possible? Perhaps it could be seen as a far too late cautionary tale or one that further complicates what would then be an arbitrary rift between humans and mutants.

Research or just stories or both or neither? What do you think of such ideas?

I realize in both ideas that I am likely quite naive about what goes on in the Marvel Universe. Maybe someday when I actually have time and resources to, I can begin to get a better grasp on Marvel and the stories told. Until then, I'll be a naively idealistic fan who sees some of what Marvel has done as endeavors of social justice. If there are insights on any of these research ideas or perspectives please share them. I definitely have a lot to read and learn about the comics world and thus appreciate your thoughts.

Until next time...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What is the Meaning of Living Without?

I've heard it and heard myself say it time and time again. That there is that something I cannot live without. Sleep seems to be tops on this list, yet I cannot make it past 7:30 a.m. most days. Regardless many other things of this sort--the things I cannot live without--have come to pass and I have simply learned to do without them. Which leaves me wondering why I was so caught up over that in the first place? (I have yet to say this about sleeping in however.)

There are other more serious things in our social environments and societies where at one point we've said we can't live without it and yet--much later on--we can't remember why that thing was such a big deal as we have adapted and moved on. Maybe things like the ozone layer, clean air in general, 'real' food, and lack of violent encounters might be examples. I can't seem to think of any better ones at the moment--a little help would be nice.

I just wonder if we have learned to live without things both great and small that should have been appreciated  or at least were truly necessary to our lives after all--despite our failure to notice these things once they are no more? For instance, does it mean that I'm okay with somehow poisoning myself should I truly learn to live without sleeping in? Does it mean that we are shortening the futures of others as well as our own by not understanding what it is to truly live without conflict--violent and non-violent? Sure it might not be a good way to live being attached to 'worldly possessions' but what if, while they are here they serve a purpose that should not be forgotten? An example for me is my mother's side of my family line and their ability to talk stories. It's something I cherish about my family and other's families, yet not having grown up around it myself, I do not have the ability to do the same and crave this ability and these kinds of stories all the time. Surely there is a purpose to the ability to tell stories--even if they are heavily embellished.

I wonder what other things we have forgotten about that are as necessary as they are seemingly unnecessary. Any feedback, insights or stories on this matter are welcome. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A summary of the last few posts

Most of the personal stuff I've been blathering on about, after much thought, can be summed up in a song--though not word for word. You'll get the idea I hope. I also hope to move on to other things personal but not so personal that it relates to no one else. Thanks for 'listening'!

 P.S. I like the live version because it's so heart on sleeve-tastic!


Friday, July 22, 2011

A Dichotomous Look at My Journey

What  I'm about to write I realize is a problematic way of looking at my life so far along with the potential my life has. At the moment, it makes sense that what has happened up to this point is viewed in this way. Maybe it has to do with my level of comfort with dichotomies that I hope to move beyond at some point. But when I think of all that has happened, my mind goes to this...

The cello is an instrument I adore. I played at one point and hope to pick it up again. For me its sound resembles the human voice, a human range of emotions, even the human soul. When I would play, I was often drawn to songs that emote on a sorrowful level. I identified with this sound and range of emotion as much as the cello did. This was (and still is to a degree) the sound that resided in my soul. Life was rather oppressive. There was little opportunity to openly emote true feelings and in general repercussions for getting 'out of line' (which wasn't well defined and quite arbitrary at that) were severe in my mind when it came to punishment. There was no sense of balance beyond sibling camaraderie and school, to the overbearing sense of discipline that guided our lives. It was hard to imagine there was any escape except in fantasy--which my siblings and I would play out from time to time when home alone.  Needless to say, I learned to master carrying around this sense of heavy often negative feelings with no outlet

The ukulele is an instrument I discovered well into adulthood and admired for its light heartedness that came with its sound. It is often described as an instrument of the heart. I identified with this instrument because it aligned with my desire to be a happier person. Its small frame and light body seemed welcoming to anyone willing to learn. Like the quest for inner happiness and peace, it takes practice and dedication (something I have yet to be 100 percent about which might say something about my own dedication to the path of inner peace and happiness). But its always there and sounding chipper  when I pick it up.  

In a way, I see the sharp difference between these two instruments as a reflection of the choices I've made in my life. Decisions that might have meant self denial of happiness, love, and living. As a child, the first major decision I made to live with my father instead of my mother. At the time it seemed like a practical decision, one that guaranteed  I would turn out a good person instead of reckless and possibly pregnant at 16--so my father would have me believe if I choose to go with her. In retrospect, it wouldn't have mattered what decision I made because the only one that would have been respected by my father, whom I was already living with, was to stay where I was. I learned this after my little brother made it known that he really wanted to live with mom repeatedly. A revelation I believe led to his increased abuse at my father's hand.

The second major decision I made was, once again, made out of duty to practicality. It was a decision to neither deny nor confirm that my father was overly abusive to my little brother. The practicality came into play upon the realization that either way, my sister and I would be going back home with our father, who would lay into us for saying the 'wrong' things (basically things that made him look bad). This came to pass but only in intensely verbally abusive ways, which meant I had to intensify my ability to hold things in.

In adulthood, I kept making these kinds of 'practical' choices that often meant a denial of happiness. The latest example coming from a willingness to stay with an oppressive situation in graduate school before being pushed into moving on to better things. All my life it seems that the 'practical' decisions and paths have also been wrought with oppression and despair...

I realize I'm rambling with my stories, only to say that I hope in seeking out a lighter, and happier path that I am not too late in my endeavors. That this path will, like my mother, still be willing to welcome me with open arms and an open heart. I want my heart and soul to take on the lightness of the ukulele, though I still find beauty and value in the humanity that is also a part of the cello.