A Pre-Midnight Update

Work on the paper continues apace. I’m officially at the halfway point of the paper (2 and a 1/2 pages out of 5).

Yes, I know, I’m a tortoise.

The few things that spur me forward are the plans I have for creative projects that I’m going to work on in the future. Not all of them will be shown to the public…

but goddamn, they’ll all be easier than this paper. 

As for specific blog updates- I might see if I can’t get an Honest Poem up tomorrow? If I can’t, I’ll probably talk about something that’s been on my mind recently that I’ve just been inwardly debating.

I really want to get a Flash Fiction written, but honestly, that’s going to have to wait until I’ve crashed after I finish this paper because cranking this out has been exhausting.

Have a lovely night, ladies and gents.

-D

Why I Don’t Write Editorials Anymore

To be clear, things haven’t changed. After all this time, I’m still a very opinionated individual.

It’s true, I don’t write that many editorials anymore- some of the more political “Dear Kath” letters were the closest things to op-ed articles that I’ve written for awhile. But it’s not because I don’t hold opinions on current events (or just in general) anymore.

It’s also not because I’m tired of writing editorials- although admittedly, I’ve grown wary of the single-minded focus with which I immersed myself in opinion articles for several years.

The main reason that I don’t write editorials nowadays is because of the general atmosphere and environment I currently live in. We live in an over-saturation of opinions and misinformation. Everyone talks over one another and drowns each other out. Note too, that this is a world of acidic (and at times toxic) negativity. I feel like that in such an environment, my acerbic, cutting analyses do not serve to be an entirely positive influence. I like to think I’m fighting a good fight and trying to be a voice of reason. However, I think the impact of editorials are still limited.

I look at the streamers and YouTubers- the new media stars and I admire how they help people with their content- by making them laugh and making them feel less alone in the world. Sure, some will say that their content is disposable and silly, but it doesn’t change the impact that they’ve made on thousands or millions of people. And it’s so fucking beautiful.

That is my greatest wish- more than anything else- to bring joy with all my work, no matter what form it may take.

-D

(P.S.- I had to write this editorial though. It was a response to another article that desperately needed to be rebuked. I might write a supplement on this next.)

 

A “B” is not a bad grade.

Entry #12 – March 5, 2017

Dear Kath,

 

I wrote a letter to my sister today. She’s been struggling with writing so every now and again, my parents call me in to intervene, read things over, give her revisions and tips on her essays like a good Korean brother would do (What’s that supposed to mean, you would ask, and I would respond with some vague hint about how my mother told me about how all the other Asian kids with older siblings tend to mysteriously perform better and get higher scores). And my revisions can get extensive- or very time consuming when I try not to be extensive and I scale back or overlook casual mistakes.

But I digress. The letter. The letter goes into detail about the many trends I’ve noticed in the writing- the long and rambling sentences (huh that sounds like me), the repetitive nature of the different argument paragraphs (huh that sounds like this series), and the generally unconvincing/unoriginal/done-before-and-come-back-for-tea arguments of the essays (oh my God I’ve been a terrible writer this whole time send help pls).

Putting aside all that, I tried to encourage her. To tell her that everyone starts off bad at something, and it is only through learning and growth that they do better. As much as our parents strove for perfection, it’s not something that can be attained immediately, it involves practice and effort. I said that she shouldn’t be ashamed of a B – that a B is not a failing grade.

It’s a solid start. Now keep pushing.”

I sounded like you for a little bit there. Mind you, you were a bit more flamboyant (I think that’s the word) about it, telling me that “For this reason, I demand your self-confidence be as high as that of the male-attracting sluts at your school, the jocks, the academics, and the richest of them in your class.”

I just wonder if you realize how hard your demand was/is to fulfill- especially since there’s plenty of self-loathing wallowing in me, alongside the arrogance and the narcissism in a potion of hormones and stupidity.

…I could go into more detail about this, but maybe that’s for another time.

The point stands- and it’s something I pass onto you, the readers. You don’t have to be perfect all the time. When you have an aspiration, you’re probably not going to start out being fantastic at it. Do not let that discourage you.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Cheers, and thanks for listening.

-D

The New Question

Entry #11 – March 5, 2017

Dear Kath,

What is at stake?

This is the new question that must imbue each and every piece of work that I create moving forward. What does the audience gain from ever piece of work that I do? What do I contribute to them that they didn’t have before? What is the “so what?

It’s a question I’ve failed to answer before in school essays- the one thing I could never answer- why- what distinguishes your work from the 30 other picture perfect persuasive essays like it? What do I give you that others cannot?

And it’s something that I still don’t quite know how to answer- I’m not entirely satisfied with the answers I have to give.

The thing that defined my high school writing over everyone else’s was (I like to think) the quality of the writing. I threw myself into writing and I worked to be the absolute best, and I like to think that I got the results I did by outshining others- not through pure creativity or talent but just old fashioned skill and hard work.

Now I’m at a uni where people can write just as well as I can, and those people have the advantage of creativity and original thoughts that I fear I am somewhat devoid of. And it brings me back to the question of “so what?” What sets me apart from the others?

Because even if my skill level is still higher than others (I don’t dare to think it is), that doesn’t satisfy me. I seek that originality and that creativity. I strive for it but I have absolutely no idea how to attain it.

I feel like I’ve been expressing this sentiment a lot recently. Sorry if it’s getting a tad bit repetitive.

-D

The Life Beyond

Entry #10 – March 4, 2017

Dear Kath,

You’re still right about something. I am very, very inexperienced. 

Some would call me untested, but considering how many years I had to put up with exams, standardized and otherwise, I don’t really think that word fits me much.

Anyways. My point is that my life has been largely dominated by schoolwork and study, preparation for this current stage of life (uni). When my time wasn’t spent silently dying by brute-force memorization and menial assignments, I spent it writing or reading what I wanted to read or consuming media. My entire life has been devoted to productivity and there’s really not much room for anything else. Kind of sad, isn’t it?

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This, in hindsight, is probably what you were trying to get me to avoid when you told me to get that stick out of my ass and live a little.

A “friend” of mine once said that my lack of experience was an advantage. Specifically, that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, to have a fresh naiveté and a new, more innocent point of view in a cynical world. This is something that consoled me awhile ago, but it’s something that I’ve come to disagree with in recent moments. Because while I do agree that a sprig of optimism is necessary in life, to have optimism in a state of ignorance is definitely not the answer.

So the first thing I have to do is go out and experience something new. No pressure, right?

There’s just one other thing I worry about. Because people don’t change, you told me once. They can be molded, but nothing can change the core of what they are.

What if I am, at my core, utterly hopeless?

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What if I am doomed to be a sheep? To always merely be a consumer that gulps down opinions and whatever is told to me without questioning it? What if I’ll never be able to have a proper argument or debate with another person because I am far too unaware, far too pliable?

That is something that I never, ever, want to be. But reflecting at recent instances in my life, I think it is what I am right now. And that’s why I can’t really certainly say that I would never be content with a life like that- because I’ve been living with it and just dealing with it- the picture perfect definition of a sheep waiting to be herded away. Baaaaaa, motherfucker.

I don’t know. I just don’t really know what to do.

So I suppose now is the time to ask one last question.

Where do I even begin to work to be better?

-D

Korean-American Tug of War

Entry #9 – March 1, 2017

Dear Kath,

I don’t think I ever told you about how I struggled with this, but I’m going to talk about it now as a part of a general questioning/conflicted kind of entry. But I struggled with balancing my racial identity (I’m Korean) and my very American lifestyle and upbringing.

You know, my father once told me that international students and immigrants have wider, more open minds that are more accepting of different experiences as children of two different cultures.

I don’t entirely agree with that. While I think being an immigrant and belonging to two different culture definitely opens you up to different points of view or allows you a different take on things, I don’t think being that necessarily makes for a more open minded person.

To illustrate- I was so frustrated with the Asian culture that I perceived and experienced as a high schooler. I looked around and I saw a constant nostalgia for the culture and the lifestyle of a far off country and a denial that we weren’t there anymore. I grew up in the midst of constant competition against my peers, in a desperate free-for-all to be the student who performed best, got into the most well-known college, under the eyes of all the probing parents. I either saw students with a singleminded, ruthless focus on achievement, competition and a future in an office and the Korean equivalent of a white picket fence or students who were like a hive mind, only hanging out with people of the same nationality, sharing the same opinions, continually static and shit-talking people who they thought were beneath them.

And the whispers I’ve heard made me angry. So what if the new kid transferred out of private school and back to our public school because of a video game addiction? That doesn’t make him any less of a person, and that doesn’t give you the right to treat him like an idiot. So what if that person is trans? What gives you the right to dictate what bathroom he or she or they should go into?

So what? And how dare you?

So, no, I don’t entirely agree with my father’s statement. Internationals and immigrants don’t necessarily have more open minds.

I am certainly no exception.

Because I did my best to get away from my culture and to Americanize myself. I distanced myself and showed a resentment for my race because of the unhappiness that I blamed on them. Because something I didn’t consider in the past that I consider now is that my former peers do not represent the people of my culture as a whole.

Sure, I can be angry, I can always assume the worst of people, but that would make me no better than anyone else. As I’ve aged, as I’ve matured (I’d like to hope the word fits me, but who knows?), I’d like to hope that the people and the culture are better than I gave them credit for, that there is compassion and tolerance and understanding there and that my hatred is misplaced.

I own my mistakes and I apologize for them.

While I’m never going to be an exemplary or a typical Korean, I also promise that I will never generalize and assume an entire culture is represented by the malignant actions of one person or one twisted collective.

…So, if you need an insight into exactly how fucked up I am, there you go.

Thanks for listening.

-D

Everything Unique

Entry #8 – February 27, 2017

Dear Kath,

I aspire to be like William Blake. (I will probably never reach his level of talent, but wouldn’t it be nice to dream so?)

Seriously though, he put such care into all his work. He was a multitalented man who not only self-published all his work, set the type for it all, he also did all the artwork for his volumes, and no one edition was completely similar to the other. There were always differences, always comparisons and parallels that you can look at.

On the other hand, what do I have to my name but a humble collection of blogs and a talent for the written word? I love them, without a doubt, but they should only be a start. The skills I currently seek to master (Photoshop, performing for YouTube, and HTML/CSS) are skills that probably most everyone has already sought out.

Do I sound like a power hungry tyrant? I might. Ah well.

-D

Hell Week: A Mental Breakdown

Entry #6.5 – February 25, 2017

Dear Kath,

Now, this is where it gets nasty. I have several projects, presentations and exams all at once. These are the low points of uni and truly make me question whether or not I belong here since my tolerance for such bullshit has progressively shrunk as I’ve dealt with it more and more as I progressed over the years.

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Photo credit links here!

Naturally, I need to do preparations over the weekend but it’s Sunday night and I haven’t done close to enough at all, leaving this week even tighter on time than I normally am at my tortoise-like pace. In very simple terms, I’m falling apart at the seams, hahaha.

So if you’re in the mood to watch or read a mental breakdown, then you, my friend, have come to the perfect place.

9:00-10:00 am- I jolt awake from a long forgotten dream and feel everything ache. One of these days, I need to travel all the way out to Bed Bath and Beyond to get my hands on a mattress pad because the current bed is literally only made out of springs- I might as well be sleeping on the floor. Hopping out of bed, I move to brush my teeth and prepare for the day ahead.

10:00 am-11:00 am- I jog through campus just in time for the cafeteria to open for breakfast. It’s shitty as usual and the cafeteria worker who always gives me a smaller portion is on duty. Ain’t life great? I love paying for food that I’m never going to eat.

11:00 am-12:40 pm- I next trek to the library and settle to my work. I manage to study for my oncoming midterm ’til about 12:40 before I can’t focus anymore. Word to the wise, British Literature ain’t as fascinating as it sounds. Gulliver’s Travels as a satire is interesting enough. The Hobbes and Locke debate plays out pretty well and Mary Astell’s sarcasm and feminism are on point. William Wycherley and Daniel Defoe are undoubtedly the driest authors I’ve ever had to read in my life. (I have tried to finish Robinson Crusoe eight times. I have fallen asleep all eight times.) There’s a lot more to this, but this is what I tried to retain today for my exam. I’ve got a notion of everything except Wycherley and Crusoe.

12:40-2:40 pm- This is where I would say I began to lose control of my life and my break ran far too long. It was at this point that I got up and moved back to my dorm’s study lounge. (This timeslot entry makes me sound like the narrator of The Stanley Parable.)

2:40-5:00 pm- Putting on Merlin and an assorted list of YouTube videos in the background, I managed to work my way through my creative writing readings and draft markups. Success! I did not manage to write the letters, but that’s alright. Those don’t normally take too long to complete.

5:00-7:00 pm- Fuck my life. Ate like 8 pieces of ham for dinner. That counts, right?

7:30?-12:00 am- went to my room for a brief break. Fell asleep for five hours.

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via GIPHY

Past me, about future me

Which brings us up to the present day! This very moment! Hooooo joy!

(…what the fuck am I doing?)

Sometimes, I wonder what you’d think of me now, Kath. And I don’t mean that in some wise old philosophizing bullshit kind of way, I mean as in you saw me as this wise, studious, focused person with a stick up his ass. And I kind of was that guy. Look at me now. Unfocused on work that bores me to death and on work I enjoy.

Like this post, for example- it started out as a look into how a normal day of mine goes and quickly decelerated into silly, unfunny jokes, and falling asleep.

At any rate, nobody likes moody grunge or emotional reflection, so I shall leave it off here for tonight. And I shall pick back up with a real essay tomorrow. Hopefully get my life back together, but that’s a long shot. Like “A Beatles getting back together long shot.”

I wonder what you would have thought of a letter like this since I was oh-so-serious and cringey all the time back then….

Thanks for listening.

-D

If politics is meatloaf, is there a vegetarian option?

Entry #6- February 25, 2017

Dear Kath,

I’ve been trying to eat healthier recently. As a kid, I was such a picky eater. I couldn’t stand everything, and I had digestive problems and my parents always worried about me. And they were right to, I gorged on junk food and my favorite meals are normally the ones that aren’t the most conducive to my health. But as I’ve aged, as I’ve matured (I hesitate to use the word, it probably doesn’t actually suit me), I’ve been trying to get better and my body naturally inclines towards healthier options. I still enjoy the occasional snack (and I cheat a lot on this diet when I’m stressed, which is a considerable amount of the time here at uni), but I’ve learned the truth behind that old, tired maxim of “Everything should be in moderation. 

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“There is no such thing as moderation.” – Katamari Damacy (Photo credits here)

This is a lesson I think people could stand to remember nowadays as they gorge on political content. Because everything feels political nowadays. I’ve been sorely tempted to delete Facebook so many times, mostly because of all the politics that came with this past election and now with the questionable actions of the Trump administration.

 

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What’s the difference between the President and meatloaf? While both look absolutely unappetizing, one is a much more natural color and the other is Trump. (Photo credits to Wikimedia Commons)

Nowadays, I can’t scroll down without getting absolutely flooded with the newest rants or praises on recent policies. Entertainment is definitely a lot more political now (see SNL, for instance). Hell, food is political now (If I promise that I will never eat a piece of meatloaf, will everyone shut the fuck up about an orange potato’s food preferences?). Even in church, you hear the priests pray that politicians will do the right thing, walk the path of God and carry out his will. (I’d ask you about your thoughts on that if I could- do you believe in the separation of church and state?)

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There is no such thing as a sanctuary from politics anymore.

Part of me is not complaining at all. Of course, politics and the government are an important part of our life that impacts how we live, and I think that it’s for the better that it takes a bigger role in our society, that we encourage discussion and the distribution of facts. No, the problems lie in microcosms made up of people who are unwilling to listen to opinions different from their own, in those who cling to false facts, in the fake news that make all this talk and debate pointless- because no one will listen and all we are left with is a foul taste in our mouths.

Of course, the solution to all this is not to stop discussion, nor to regulate it. Avoiding writing political articles like I have or staying away from social networks is not the answer. As much as I’d love to hit the “pause button” and reset the whole discussion from the top because it’s so overwhelming and tiring, there’s no such thing. While there is no real solid solution, I would advise this to the American people. Obvious advice, perhaps, but I think it needs to be said to some very militant people.

Let’s just live. Relax and breathe and take time away from politics. Love your family and your friends and go see some cute animals somewhere. And if politics is your life, God bless. Go fight for change. But please try to do so with compassion in your heart that you feel that others lack, and do try not to be patronizing.

That would be my prescription concerning politics (that made me chuckle a bit, since you were supposed to be the scientific one.) – everything should be in moderation.

But hey, what do I know, right? I’m no better or no different from anyone else. And I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do. They can do what they think is right.

You do you, fam (ugh, not a fan of the slang nowadays.) Me? I’ll be off somewhere else.

Thanks for listening.

-D

 

Concerning the Validity of Fan Fiction

Entry #5 – February 22, 2017

Dear Kath,

A week or so ago, I finished my first major short story for a class. It clocked in at 11 pages written over the course of two days and I have never felt so proud. Having always been arrogant and narcissistic, I wrote about myself in the light of your departure. That was an interesting time, indeed. And I look back on it now with a different set of eyes than I did even a few months ago.

But enough of that. After all, that’s not what this entry is about. 

It hits me now more than ever that we’re so far from “Once upon a time,” when you told me not to write fiction because I was above it. And now I wonder what you’d make of me. I wonder if you’d insist that I really am above it, what you really saw fiction as. (I never really thought to ask, I just presumed that you held it in a low regard.)

You would probably be even more horrified to hear that nowadays I’m writing fan fiction in my spare time. Again, I think that life’s funny that way, eh? You’d probably ask if I was so desperate for attention or renown that I’d act the way I am now, and who knows? Maybe I am. Or perhaps this is much more about doing and learning something that I want for a change. Perhaps I will look back on these times and think that I was mad, or a failure for not seeing a clear path laid out in front of me.

But in this moment, I want to try everything.

But I digress again. 

Or do I? Because that would be my first point about how fan fiction benefits me. For me, fan fiction feels a lot like a testing ground for me. It’s where I use characters that I already love, whose characterizations have already been cemented, that I don’t need to take the time to flesh out and explore myself. It’s how I can try to teach myself to create some better narratives. For me, it’s a lot about having a chance to experiment with new techniques without having to constantly develop worlds and characters in a time-constricted environment (uni).

Moreover, and just as importantly, it’s fun. Over the past few years, I’ve forgotten how to write for myself, and I’ve forgotten how to enjoy writing (another reason why I failed to start blogging again for such a long time)- and that’s something that I intend to change by writing what I want, when I can. In this case, fan fiction allows me to write something that I’m personally invested in with low stakes. I don’t have to write something that’s going to sharply influence my future or be constantly evaluated or prodded and poked to give me an academic ranking or to be considered as part of my resumé. It’s quite liberating.

There’s more that I’d love to expound in this little journal entry, but I’m trying to cut down on the writing about writing a bit (especially when writing time is so valuable), so I’ll end it here. Thanks for listening.

-D