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.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This is a piece I did for an art final I have yet to title. Maybe something like Desires or Letting Go... It was done on a large sheet of paper with charcoal (my drawing arch nemesis).  It had to have a narrative surrounding it as well as a self-portrait of sorts. In a sense this piece is a reflection of my inability to articulate my ideas clearly. So here is an attempt to clarify this highly amateur work. So much for show and don't tell...

The foreground and background are meant as layers to a rather complex quest toward a desire towards peace and prosperity internally and externally. In the background, starting at the left, is a space filled with concrete and what is largely a socially constructed world that in its own way is quite 'natural' in the ways we live within it. Because I am in academia, I put in an artificial tree with papers for leaves. The road at its boundaries is asphalt. There is only one way to go about existence on this side. Unconsciously or in retrospect, this is a representation of living in a "left-brained" world. A world run by absolute logic and reason considered to be near infallible.

On the right there are living things--grass and flowers, a 'real' tree and a river serving as the boundary. This is meant to represent the other end of the spectrum and the opposite of absolute logic and reason. A place where creativity and emotion is allowed to thrive. Water representing the fluidity of consciousness and thought. A road with many possibilities for travel. An element where reality and fantasy can reside in realms like storytelling. Once more, in retrospect, a representation of living in a "right-brained" world.  The two 'roads' mimic one another, showing the dialectics of one informing the other.In the middle is a valley of tall grass meant to serve as negative space--a path that is the balance point between reason and fluidity. A space connecting the two modes of thought and being. Where both ways of thought coexist harmoniously. This is my illustration of what such a path--where there is appreciation for both modes of thinking and being--might look like. It is tough to imagine a more fitting representation despite the words of wisdom cautioning not to travel completely on one road and forsake the other (although it is more than tempting for me to want to cast aside the path and place of absolute reason at times). This is the road and place I would like to discover for myself,  a path and place of balance in thought, reasoning and being.

In the foreground is the self-portrait of my hands. They are bloodied and reaching. The object they are reaching for is the sun within which is a peony. This object is a representation of inner and outer peace and prosperity. For me this means doing well by others as well as myself. Working toward the betterment of humanity. Working toward peace, love and happiness as a focal point of my travels. Like the sun, it is out of reach and perhaps a naive and idealistic quest that is has a rather vague goal. I am unsure of what this type of endeavor looks like in a concrete manner since this journey is one that in some respects has been traveled and is heavily reliant on the path of reason, the path that has made sense to me. In other respects this--traveling along the path of reason--is not the case in that my desires are not concrete and perhaps unattainable--especially the betterment of humanity and doing something that helps others, let alone wanting to find inner peace, love , and happiness.

What has bloodied my hands is tin flower with jagged razor edges. This flower represents the beauty of ideals that have become rather painful and self-harming to hold on to. Adhering to authority figures because it  keeps one out of trouble and unquestioned obedience are examples of this. Adhering to tenets of logic and reason, though I've never fully understood them, has become quite painful and oppressive. Abiding by rules that are quite arbitrary in that not everyone has to in order to do well in their journey i.e working hard and reaping the benefits of one's labors, and the old adage, no pain, no gain. These are things that have resulted in much pain and misery yet are difficult to let go of because I've known nothing else and am afraid of being penalized or loosing my way.

I understand that in going for ones goals, hopes and dreams--striving fully--reaching out means letting go. Of  fear, pain of the past and present, and perhaps of control as well. It means leaving behind things I've learned, 'truths' that might no longer be relevant if I am to truly understand and strive for my goals. And perhaps it means trusting completely in myself.

I've been thinking a lot about my journey in dichotomies. Two extremes, either this or that, nothing in between. This has been the nature of my existence and it is hard to think beyond one or the other. This piece is a depiction of a desire to move away from that. To move toward a space with a great amount of possibility in thought and being. Maybe freedom is what I'm after.

Thanks for bearing with me on this.

Up next, a dichotomous way of expressing this desire but hopefully no less of a sense of liberation is attached.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A "Bad" Friend

Maybe this is more an issue of the necessity of being a social being. A big struggle of mine is that of leaving the comforts of introversion. It's been a while since high school, but during this time was when my social patterns were developed the most. Moving and attending six high schools didn't help matters any. Nor did finding out from a condescending parent that the people I thought were friends were really people who saw me as the butt of their jokes in junior high. Needless to say most situations with meeting new people are approached with 'yellow alert-like' caution (Star Trek fans know what that means). When it came to situations where I clearly did not fit in I was in 'red-alert' mode, though my passiveness made it difficult to think I could use my phasers, only evasive maneuvers.

In any case, not only am I an introvert but a guarded one trusting the gut on people I've come to know. As a friend, I'm good in face to face situations but am not good at calling or keeping any kind of meaningful contact. On top of that, I'm bad a planning or arranging hang-out sessions. I'm just not a social butterfly. It's great to be contacted but hopefully my failure to reciprocate is not taken personally. It's difficult to gauge if and when I'm becoming a pest with my banter, so to avoid such pondering I keep my share of the conversation minimal which works out since my friends usually have more to say and report than I do.

Unfortunately this is worse for those who have move considerable distances from me. Except for my Sis, whom I can usually depend on to be up for any kind of convo, it is difficult to bring myself to keep in touch. With all of these individuals, I miss and care about them deeply and wish I could see them more. When we do connect, it's refreshing. Most seem to understand how I feel and that I still wish for them to be my friend.

Which brings me to about this time last year. Sis and I met a cool family on a ferry boat to Canada. Next thing you know were up on Hurricane Ridge doing some awesome stargazing with the Twin Brothers from this family--they had an industrial sized telescope, computer coordinates of the constellations and everything! Did I mention it was awesome! We got to see the moon, Saturn, Scorpio and my favorite, the Swan nebula. I cannot begin to thank them enough for the awesome time! Total strangers I wish had become friends--'cause they would make awesome friends. However, my family and I were just passing through so all I could get away with was a phone number and an address. At around Christmas time I sent them a long belated note of thanks and well wishes for the Holiday. I also wrote a poem that I will post and dedicate to all the friends and family I've neglected over the years yet miss like crazy. Anyone I dare to call friend is a major feat of trust on my end because these individuals are truly good and amazing people I've had the fortune of knowing and having in my life at some point. More than anything this piece is an expression of gratitude for that alone. Maybe those of you reading will be able to relate as well...


Etched on the contours of my soul
Are memories of the Stars
You all are there too
The night sky is the photo album where I keep you
With the rest of my far-flung family
Beautifully placed yet so far away
Though I neglect you
I am blessed to know you are there 
And that I can visit you
And you me
When I go outside


Full Metal Alchemist ponderings pt. 2: the Gate

Once again, here are my thoughts about aspects of the series Full Metal Alchemist (both of them) that have inspired much thought. Since I can't talk about it coherently with any one that I know has watched the show (which is one person and I don't wan't to sound like a total idiot in front of him), I figure this is a good space to fully lay them out. So again, there are spoilers but I encourage any one that can to watch the show and form their own thoughts about the events that come to pass.

So, the another element of the show I've thought about from time to time has to do with 'the Gate'. It is often described as the gateway to 'the Truth'. Those that use alchemy appear to be only ones that possess it and it appears to be accessed only when the impossible attempt at (re)creating a human life is engaged. With the law of equivalent exchange as the basis of alchemy, there is nothing of  equivalence that can be exchanged for a human soul. Not even a philosopher's stone can challenge this 'fact'. As such, those that have dared are exposed briefly to 'the Truth'; a maddening experience because of the myriad of 'knowledge' one soaks in (of which I imagine only a fraction is maintained).

In addition to accessing this gate (I'll call it a gate of knowledge), one comes face to face with 'the Truth' which is self-described as the individual facing them (by stating 'I am you')and in so many words, God (let me know if I'm wrong about this). This all-knowing being has a brief conversation with the transgressor--one who attempts human transmutation that results in creation of a human life--before sending her/him away. It has been a while since I've seen any of the scenes in which this occurs but I think this being whom goes by many names, tries to give the transgressor something to think about before sending her/him off.

Although only alchemists are made aware of the existence of their Gate, which happens to be what allows them to use alchemy, I wonder if this Gate could have been something that was a part of everyone in this tale and that certain individuals were more in tune with it than others? I thought it was interesting near the end of the second series that, in realizing he still had friends and family who cared about him regardless, Edward chooses to give up his Gate and thus his ability to use alchemy (and perhaps converse with the God within him? or maybe it was just that he believed in himself so greatly that he no longer needed to have this option available to him) in order to bring back his brother. I wonder about the significance of this.

Indeed there is selflessness involved to a degree. After all, the ability to use alchemy in itself holds a great deal of power for the individual in question. It can be used to bring about as much harm as good. I imagine this would be a hard thing to realize, let alone want to give up. After taking into account equivalent exchange, alchemy is a mode of great power allowing individuals to create as well as destroy at will in the FMA world.

It makes me think of the equivalence of this in society as well. Part of this having simply to do with the Gate and its various meanings and translations in the real world. What might our inner source of knowledge/truth be that allows for us to have a great deal of power in a particular area or as a particular aspect of our lives? (did that make sense?) Is this source of power something that also includes the ability to create and destroy at will, keeping in mind the various 'laws' that are part of this particular realm?

I'm not trying to say that we all are alchemists but maybe that this concept can be applied to multiple realms and aspects of our livelihoods in which we could be alchemists. That we have an inherent power that we can control--once learned--at will and that this power or ability becomes taken for granted to the point that it is hard to imagine life without it. It may cloud our judgement about what is important or that what seems simple to us, because of this ability and the insights that  come with it, is in fact a lot of work without it. What it would mean to give that piece of ourselves up for a cause greater than ourselves knowing what we know? Knowing that there are more positives than negatives that will come of it? What might this Gate translate to in our lives?

I can't really think of anything amazing within myself  that this might translate to at the moment, but maybe it is a sign of how I take this/these internal attributes for granted. Maybe it takes knowing others on a deep enough level to spark awareness of what this might be. Maybe it is another part of the journey I must go on to figure myself out. Or I could just need a different way of thinking about this. I wonder what the author and creator of this series would have to say on the matter?

In any case, another part of the notion of the Gate makes me think about my limited encounters with Buddhist thought. Specifically Niciren Daishonin's  style of Buddhist thought. How chanting puts us in tune with the greater universe that we are a part of and that is within us. That we are engaging in a practice that further opens us to our potential of attaining the Buddha-hood that has always existed within us. I guess I think of this as a practice where we are accessing and trying to open our inner Gates beyond which lies our Truth, the God within us. This changes our relationship with our surrounding reality in that our infinite potentials are gradually realized, though there is just as much potential to instantaneously travel back and forth between any of the ten worlds (hell, hunger, animality, anger, humanity, heaven, learning, realization, Bodhisattva and Buddha-hood)  and their accompanying manifestations making the journey an imperfect one (at least that's how I understand it at the moment). If the Gate were to be understood in relation to this, would it be wise to want to give up such an essential part of ourselves? To cast away the God within us knowing that it connects us to the rest of the world, universe and God? Maybe if this aspect of ourselves was well understood the idea of doing this would be thought of differently.

Any insights or thoughts on any of these notions discussed are welcome. I have yet to full wrap my mind on any of this stuff but would enjoy the conversation and act of trying . Otherwise, at least my thoughts have been somewhat organized in some manner of articulation. Maybe reading the manga will help too. Or watching the show fifty more times--like I need an excuse ;}

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Full Metal Alchemist ponderings pt. 1

Disclaimer: The following concerns a show I have already seen and thus might have spoilers. If you haven't seen the show I highly recommend it. What I have to say shouldn't influence what you may or may not have seen in the show. These are just my thoughts.

Recently I had the pleasure of watching both versions of Full Metal Alchemist (the second version was watched mostly in Japanese with subs so I eagerly await access to English dubs). The main thing I like about this series and most Japanese animation series I've gotten into in the past is the ability to promote extensive thought about the notions and ideals communicated. For instance,while I enjoyed both versions, I liked how the first actively questioned or at least was critical of the taken for granted notion of  'equivalent exchange'; where in order to receive something, something of equal value must be given. I have my own issues with this notion that is very much a part of how daily life is encountered, especially when it comes to the justness of such thought when it comes to the less fortunate and downtrodden.

Another thing I like about both series and have been thinking about surrounds the 'philosopher's stone', its creation and its use. The main thing about the philosopher's stone is that it can be used without adhering to the 'first law of alchemy', equivalent exchange. This stone has a great deal of power to do whatever the beholder desires, giving that individual a great sense of being powerful. Often the stone is used to gain and maintain power and is seen as a grantor of wishes in a sense. Its creation however might be problematic to some--especially those that are social justice oriented--in that human souls are needed. The stone is essentially human lives/souls and relies on them for its power.

As such throughout human history as it exists in FMA, this knowledge has lead to large scale massacres and even genocides of various groups i.e races of people with made-up names (but minorities nonetheless) that have resided within or around the fictional dominant nation Amestris.All of this appears to have been done at the behest of the state military strictly for the creation of philosopher's stones which serve a  myriad of purposes I wont go into but all of which have to do with gaining and maintaining power and authority. Interestingly, until the present story line of FMA, the philosopher's stone was/is treated largely as a myth and seekers are warned of death and peril to those that pursue it.

I mention all of this because after watching the show, I have been wondering about the equivalent of the philosopher's stone in our current reality. What is the thing or things that ensure the power of a nation or group of people? What is the object or objects that have cost thousands, millions, billions of human lives in order to obtain  it/them for our own use or livelihoods? On the unacknowledged backs/souls of whom do we stand  as we proceed with the quality of life we have? What is it that allows for the dismissal of the concept of equivalent exchange on micro and macro levels by the powerful? What are the true intentions of such senseless murder and destruction?

I hope the answer that surrounds these queries isn't as simple as power. Or maybe its resources that were or still are symbols exchanged for power and domination. Those are just some guesses I have on the matter. Often I think about the near elimination of American Indians, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, Middle Eastern conflicts the U.S. is or isn't directly involved in and a lot of the movement toward genocide that has taken place in various African countries as real world examples of human atrocities for the sake of many things I do not fully understand but might equate to a purpose similar to the acquiring of a philosopher's stone like substance. It is interesting how minorities are made to suffer the most for such lofty aims, though we all suffer just the same despite the differences in which it occurs.

There is so much I am unaware of in regards to these issues yet I am not sure how I would take responsibility or begin to act responsively to the knowledge that surrounds these issues. Like the Elrich brothers, is it too naive or idealistic to think I could live and achieve my goals without use--known and unknown--of a philosopher's stone, whatever that happens to represent in reality? Though they manage without it (at least in the first series), the paths they discover are arduous and painful at times yet alternatives to using the stone are ever present. However those that do use it with a conscience acknowledge the souls/lives within the stone to the point where it is believed they are willing participants in the use intended for the stone (hope that made sense). At the very least, gratitude is expressed towards the souls/lives that make use of the stone possible.

I wonder what that would mean for us in reality? At the moment I can't even begin to imagine the vast amount of people, besides my ancestors and American Indians, to give gratitude to for the life I currently live here in America. And this is only one aspect of the show that I've dwelled on in my head--which is why I like it so much. I wonder what others think about this? Any insights into this  or FMA in general are welcome.

Oh and thanks to The Coolest Brother Ever for introducing me to this show!  

Up next...pt2: the Gate

Monday, July 18, 2011

Research Ideas: Comic related

As a graduate student, the wheels are always spinning as to what I should research. Talking to people in and outside of academia only amplifies the possibilities of studies I could do. A few years ago, I hatched an idea to a fellow graduate student. A few years later, I hatched an update of this idea to a couple of professors from different universities that were interested in comics. I figured I'd post a revised version of this idea to get feedback from whomever cares to. I would love to know any thoughts surrounding the notions presented and realize that there are likely errors in my thinking. Well, here it goes...

My research idea: Exploration of the introduction of minority characters into the Marvel Universe with a spotlight on the X-Men. Another layer of this idea looks into story lines that deal with the conflict characters face in regards to identity, being part of a group that is heavily discriminated against yet doing what is necessary to serve and protect humanity. I am interested in stories that depict the turmoil faced by characters whom are encouraged to do what they can to work towards peace and harmony with humans but live in a reality filled with hatred projected on them by humans. By looking at these things, I suppose I am theorizing such storytelling as a mode of social activism and justice within the Marvel Universe.

An example of this is not centered around the X-Men but Captain America. A graphic novel was produced in 2003  that shed light on the experimentation done on black soldiers during World War II  that is reminiscent of the Tuskegee experiments done around the same time. This story showed the true origins of Captain America, and told the tale of the black soldier who survived experimentation and thus was technically the first Captain America. 

While I have little depth of knowledge about the many X-Men story lines--it's too expensive to keep track--from what I do know and have read, I get the sense that Marvel has been a bit more active in creating diverse and complex characters and stories. Though the ways in which this has come to pass are not flawless--looking closely at female and minority character depictions might reveal heavy flaws indeed--it seems Marvel was active about being inclusive of the vast variety of people that read comic books. There is a lot there with intersectionalities of race, gender, and class. Things were never perfect for the characters depicted or their situations and goals/ideals. Complexities abound about the ideals and the difficulties in staying true to them; not to mention the internal contradictions do-gooders were often too late to realize until negative repercussions surfaced. 

In addition to all of this, I could stand to do a comparison with DC comics regarding these same things despite my bias. I realize the flack I'll get in saying that I find DC to be historically status-quo race, class and gender wise,  and thus unappealing character and story-wise. My bias also stems from being a Marvel fan since childhood when I would steal my older brother's comics and watch X-Men and Spider-Man on Saturday mornings. Did I mention I did my then relaxed hair like Wolverine for the premiere of the first X-Men movie? Suppose it goes to show how clouded my thinking is in favor of Marvel.

More ideas to come...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Anniversary: Promises made, Few kept

It's been six years since I made a vow. To be patient, kind, understanding and committed. That I would be what love is. During this time, I'm not sure I followed through consistently on any of them except commitment. Entering in, I was naively optimistic that no matter what happened love would always be there guiding our way. Never had the thought crossed my mind that I had no idea of what love truly was, nor that in a variety of situations, I am neither patient, kind or understanding. My upbringing has a lot to do with that, so it's no wonder that the magic of love became little more than a myth that couldn't be lived up to on my end.

I tend to have a short temper about things both trivial and non-trivial, stubborn about what I think I'm right about and not very understanding about how my Mate views certain things. At the same time, I am reluctantly, yet overly compliant about a great many things--some of which I should have stood my ground on. Being "properly" assertive is not my strong suit and I am not skilled at "choosing my battles". This also makes me rather angry in that I tend to be wrong most of the time. Holding things in is a strong suit I mastered in childhood--when it was clear my thoughts and feelings did not matter. I have wrongfully carried this belief over to my relationship, although in some instances I do wonder.

However I have chosen to stand firm in commitment, regardless of the pitfalls that have occurred along the way. I do not know why. Initially, I figured I was in a situation where I could grow from the things my Mate could teach me, especially when it came to love, family, wisdom--things I figured were not strong in myself. I still have a lot to learn in these areas and now realize that this is something I must take on alone. Not to say that I am leaving but that these are things I have to figure out for myself. In doing so, I might be a better partner to my Mate. I also need to figure out myself and how to eliminate the negative pit that has been a long-standing remnant of childhood days.

Learning patience, understanding, freedom of expression and most of all love are things that have begun to occur to me as a highly necessary part of my journey. Doing so will make me a better person, partner and parent among the roles I must take on. Until then I will continue to struggle with doing my best with my Mate, appreciate him for putting up with me so far, and hope to someday be true to my vows.