Modern-Day Absurdism

Lately I’ve been pondering war. They’re political, they hurt like hell to think about– I’ve carried this morbid fascination with the topic since Modern World last year. That’s probably where this got started, learning about World War One and reading All Quiet On The Western Front. WWI was the last of the Romantic wars, trench warfare the disillusionment, the mass murder of innocence and honor. I have a book of WWI poetry sitting on my desk:

When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you’ll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
it is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, ‘They are dead.’ Then add thereto,
‘Yet many a better one has died before.’
Then, scanning all the o’ercrowded mass, should you
perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
it is a spoke. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

–Charles Hamilton Sorley

–and that’s just one poem. This is the consequence of dividing soldiers in war from a bigger political agenda, I think, when even the people know not what they are fighting for. We see this again in Korea, in Vietnam, in Iraq. Why do we fight?

But that’s a digression– I’d like to focus on the act of war itself, fighting on a battlefield, fighting for your life. Today we hear about PTSD, flashbacks, blackout episodes in veterans, how they are unable to reintegrate into civilization. We don’t hear about that happening after World War Two, it was more of a post-Korea thing. Post-Vietnam thing. Apocalypse Now, Mr. Kurtz and the horror the horror, that was the first Art&Film movie I walked away from shaking and sobbing in fear and distress. Line that up side by side with Paul from All Quiet, the soldier he killed in a trench, and we see a theme. These men aren’t fighting for a greater cause, they’re fighting for their lives. They’re fighting to survive in a situation the Great Civilization dumped them in, and they’re coming out– fast as new cars in an assembly line– disappointed. Disillusioned– the great lie of politics and society, we make it so much more than it actually is, Governor Smoke and President Mirrors. This is the type of hopelessness that spreads, a pervasive undercurrent of thought already worming through the American consciousness, the great distrust in power. Watergate just made it official.

Bringing it back home, I’ve found a similar morbid fascination with Absurdist writings– maybe it’s related, maybe it’s not. All I know is I get the same big swallow in my throat, breathing hard the wrong way down my esophagus so my stomach gets bloated on emptiness. Let’s go. We can’t. Why not? We’re waiting for Godot. Ah! This hilarious sadness for something we’ve blown way out of proportions, we care so deeply for and mourn its lost– it’s ridiculous. It’s absurd. Civilization is a method for bookkeeping, its entire purpose to ordain and streamline modes of interaction between humans, and we’ve let the plaque build up in guise of Romanticism. We’re festering. We’re self-destructing. What the hell, hero, America, you weren’t supposed to let these ideals get out of hand. You weren’t supposed to idly stand by and believe anything with a federal stamp of approval over it. How little we want to care, it’s crass. It’s utterly, completely absurd.

Re: Social Media

Okay, I totally get it when people judge and poke fun at social media: Facebook cuts down actual face-to-face communication, Twitter is for twits, Tumblr’s just plain weird.

Instagram is Twitter for people who can’t read/write (the joke being– Twitter posts have a 140 character-limit).

And then the less mean one: Instagram just makes photos look old, what the hell’s the point.

…The point is, I like photos. I like taking them, composing shots, editing them.

The cliché is that people who use Instagram just post pictures of Starbucks, what they’re eating, selfies, and the sky.

(A cliché that is actually true to a definite percent on a piechart.)

But there are also tons of respectable photographers and photo-editors self-publishing on Instagram.

I like photos a lot.

Instagram is a quick auto-editor, with enough options for filters and blurring etc. that I feel like I have a say in my composition.

Most ridiculous; don’t write me off as a person for using Instagram.

(I Wanna Take You to a) Play (Bar)

‘Aight, here are the long-awaited behind-the-scenes photos.

The Girl Who Cried Tortoise

Now there’s a guy that looks good on his hands and knees.

Mommy Hazel with Hammer Baby

Maxine and Johnny (and Jonathan)

Constructive Criticism

My Favorite Raccoon

Raccoon ft. Giorgia

Raccoon ft. Giorgia

Stay tuned for behind-the-scenes videos, for an in-depth look at CW’s creative process and waffles.

 

Depression, Angle of

Without even getting into the whole ugly mess of “Asian kids are good at math!” I’m going to say that I recently received a 70% on a Pre-Calculus test. Those that are familiar with PreCalc concepts will know that this:

is an angle of depression. I am neither the hot air balloon nor the bag of money; I am the angle itself, the oft-calculated, exasperated angle of depression fanning out from my initial angle, spreading more and more, but never getting anywhere, because no matter how long the sight line is, the angle is still the same.

Or, in shorter terms, I am angry. As hell.

Hear me out: I’m not looking for consolation, merely a source to vent at. I know that a C won’t break me (even though tests are weighted to measure as 50% of our overall grade, gross), I know that there are ups and downs to everything. Trust me when I say I’m not being a snob about grades. I don’t need anyone to tell me, “But Midori! C’s aren’t failing!” I know that, I know that.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed. Embarrassed because I was pretty damn confident about this test, confident that I knew the concepts well– and then all of a sudden, a goddamn C. It’s humiliating, I think, not so much that I was arrogant, but that I needed to reminder to see my own arrogance. At least Icarus was pure of heart, y’know, sensibility lost in a moment of excitement. I’m just somewhat of a snooty toerag, believing I have something and to screw it up so completely as to get a C.

Okay, yes, I’m blowing it way out of proportion, but the longer I linger on being angry, the more angry I become, and if I’m not angry, I can only be sad, and if I’m sad I only get sadder, so to avoid that I just get angry and more angry and–

So, what really is the purpose of this post? Venting, okay, but also a bonus package deal of moral while you’re here (for just $5.99!). I know this is often said again and again, that you shouldn’t care so much about grades, and honestly, I disagree. But that’s on a case-to-case basis– I personally want to get good grades because for one, I have excellent teachers I feel personally responsible toward, which drives me to work hard in response, and for another, I like to be recognized as good at what others challenge me to do. In the case of this math test, however, let’s take a look at the context:

  • it was one test, worth a lot, sure, but there will be more
  • the teacher does not offer extra credit
  • the teacher does not do test corrections

Given this, even if I do weep and mope about, it wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever, and as much as admitting that makes me bitter, there’s nothing I can do but accept it. And move on. What’s the point of staying upset and upsetting others? Just for the sake of my pride? The best I can do is learn where I made a mistake and reprimand myself to never do it again.

So, it’s not don’t care, but also realize that there’s such thing as caring too much, on irrelevant levels. I’d like to claim that I’m over the test, but evidently I’m still bitter enough to write an entire blogpost about it, so I still need to take my own advice. But hey, I’m trying– I can fault me for ultimately failing the test, but I can’t fault me for trying.

Interlude: plugging “King Leopold’s Ghost”

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial AfricaKing Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

History is usually rendered boring and inaccessible through pedantic language and an influx of context-less facts and statistics.

Hochschild removes all that and writes the story of history as if he were writing a novel. His use of imagery and figurative language builds the reader’s interest, his flow of characters make the reader greedy for the ending to find out what happens to them.

Writings about genocide frequently rely on the shocking statistics, blasted again and again in your face, intended for you to get the true scope of the horror.

Hochschild incorporates Congolese mythos around the White Man at that time to speak for the silenced African voices. There are numbers, yes, because those are undeniable, but Hochschild understands that it is not through bolded text and exclamation marks that these points are made–- he makes devastating use of pathos and humanity, narrating the book as if it is an “In Conversation With…” As if he has the utmost faith in his readers to know Right from Wrong, so that he doesn’t yell MURDER IS WRONG every other paragraph.

View all my reviews

Teaching: An Unexpected…?

I’ve never particularly fancied myself a teacher.

A newscaster, a psychoanalyst, a singer, a broadway dancer, sure– never really a teacher.

Why? They’re so under-appreciated, is why. I think everyone who has gone to a “normal” school can attest to this– ugh, teachers are so mean, ugh, they gave me detention, ugh, they’re so stupid why do they give us so much work, ugh. Having grown up surrounded by that, no matter how much I love my teachers, it’s hard to want to be in their position.

And then, last Friday, something changed.

Fourth period, I’m the TA for Heather’s Honors World Lit class, and on Friday, Heather had to be partially absent, so I took over. For an hour or so, I guided the class in a reading of Romeo and Juliet. Heather arrived partway through, and afterwards, told me that I was a good teacher, and that maybe I can think about going into teaching. It was lunchtime, so I just sort of went “Aw, shucks,” and left it at that.

Fast forward to the next morning, when I got up at eight to go teach Chinese for two hours at a local Buddhist community school. At eleven, I leave to teach Tap Dance to six-year-olds at the Geary Dance Center, part two of my Beginning Tap Class, for I also teach for an hour on Wednesdays.

…Upon reflection, maybe I’m a bit closer to the “teaching” thing than I had initially thought.

Just… why?! This is a bit of a panic attack-inducing realization, I’m not going to lie. Not that I’m against teaching, it’s just such a shock to find myself doing so much of something I’ve never even considered. Well, now I’m considering it, sheesh, thanks Heather. As if college wasn’t enough.

(Just kidding; I love you.)

Had This Been a Workplace, It Would’ve Qualified As Hostile

They make stock photos out of these things?

They make stock photos out of these things?

Lately has been disgustingly claustrophobic– in the one room in the big house grandma keeps building rooms in, this is the only space I can stay comfortable in, and it has a draft. Venturing out means repeating the same conversation with grandpa every time he sees me (“Have you eaten yet?” “Yes grandpa,” even when it’s four in the afternoon), means tense silences with grandma or her criticisms at my disrespect (because she doesn’t know where I got my mind from, a mind to disobey, when she’s long-since schooled her son to be silent and stoic and just this side of slow). It means going to mother’s room and having fun joking around for a couple of hours then being disappointed at because I had left something in the room and she didn’t like me intruding on her space (she’s only got the one room, also).

I have a space, cramped with stuff and used from corner to corner, but I can breathe in it. It’s just that sometimes, it got a bit cold, that’s all.

You Get ABS, and You Get ABS, Everybody Gets ABS!

It’s a contemplative day in life when you realize you don’t have abs to spare. Or any abs at all. When you’re just a squishy tummy that cats like to sit on.

A squishy tummy with a brain, because while I may not have abs to spare, I certainly do have ABS to spare. A.B.S., or Angsty Backstory.

Angst (n.): an intense feeling of apprehension, anxiety, or inner turmoil
Backstory (n.): a history or background created for a fictional character

Now, before you judge me for regressing into tweenage blues, let me explain. Regardless of your current-day characteristics, you have experienced emotional turmoil in the past; that is simply a fact of humanity, that we always seek the ups and downs to map out the full spectrum of living. Whether this is through direct or indirect experiences is up to the individual. That is what I mean by angsty, those factors for physical, intellectual, or moral change, not OMFG parents wont lemme stay out until 9 parents sux.

In Creative Writing II, we are working the Fiction unit from the literal beginning: Your character is a child, make it happen. How old is this child? Who does this child live with? Does this child’s surroundings affect his or her view of the world? What does this child believe in? And beyond (or beneath– depends on how you look at it) those, does this child like hot or cold weather? How does he or she turn the pages in a book? Does he or she wear socks to sleep?

As a self-identified fiction-writer, this is well within my comfort zone. I name my character (Delilah, or Lilah for short), develop her voice (she’s eight years old, and tries to act more mature like her older sister, whom she admires very much), and decide on her surroundings (parents are divorced, live with Mom, older brother, and older sister). I cocoon myself in bed and think that Lilah likes hot weather because hot days are brighter and she can see more; she separates the pages by the top right hand corner because she doesn’t want to get spit all over the book; she sometimes goes to sleep with socks on because she forgot but always wakes up with them kicked off and lost in the sheets.

Here is where I hit a rut.

from Stop MOTION Mission

There was no way I could keep on going with Lilah’s character if I didn’t know about her family, the people who have influenced her: Why did Lilah idolize her older sister instead of her brother? What are her feelings on her father? Of course, those raised further questions: What are Lilah’s siblings like? Why did her parents get divorced in the first place?

Maia introduced to us the “Why” game, where one continues asking “Why?” to every answer to every question. She intended this to be a source of inspiration, I think, fleshing out the little details so that we can sink our teeth into one and blow it up to a full story. Little did she know this was to be my Downfall.

Now, I know everything about everyone (I can feel my hair growing bigger as I write). I know the older brother’s name is Allen and he likes arts and crafts and really doesn’t care for judgment, I know the older sister’s name is Chris and she hates being called Christina and she’s the student body president of her high school, I know the mother divorced the father for making a decision she couldn’t bear to make, I know the father remained desperately in love with the mother until the day he died. I also know that want to write a short story about what Lilah thinks about her Mom’s smile. But what about everything else? Where do I include the fact that Chris’s favorite animal is the arctic fox? How about that Dad knew how to tap dance? What about when Allen sold his first commissioned painting?

And that’s what hurts the most (Cascada, hello 8th grade-dance flashback), to take this character that you’ve detailed all over, and presenting only a sliver. And it’s never the sliver you want. You move the spotlight over onto one part for an easier perspective, and one character’s arm gets lost in the shuffle. You point out everybody’s eyes, but you miss all of their mouths and ears. You want to talk about the shapes, but you have to do so at expense of the colors, the composition. Sure, you can try your darn best to show everything vital, everything that makes up the whole of your work, but it’s the fine line between fitting everything snugly into a suitcase and stuffing your shirt inside your mug which is inside your jacket pocket. It makes me infinitely sad that you can’t know the entirety of my babies’ stories within one piece of writing.

I guess, though, that’s another fine line to tread, between the raw inspiration and the refined outcome. What do I want my audience to know, the telling of my characters’ emotions, or the showing of my art, portraying a moment in their lives? The answer is, of course, clear, as it is my self-decided path of a Creative Writer. It’s a sacrifice I– and most other fiction writers, I dare to say– have to make.

Of course, I can also write the stories, then write essays about my stories under a pseudonym. What do you mean, pathetic?