Quick?

Alright, I know it’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post. It’s because my mind has been blank because of school and homework and just… life. No time to think. Only to work.

And play games.

I’ve been playing GTAIV lately. I have to say, this GTA is really different from the games in the GTAIII series (which includes Vice City, San Andreas, etc).

You know how GTA is, though. Killing cops, stealing cars, shooting people, blowing up innocent people.

But there’s something about this game that really irks me.

You go through the game, being a contract killer,  assassinating people, delivering drug packages, etc. You know, illegal stuff.

But then, whenever the main character is offered drugs, he refuses.

When he’s offered alcohol, he refuses.

When he’s offered smokes, he refuses.

Rockstar (the creators of GTA) know that they’ve gotten in trouble for being a bad influence on players. So they must have done this on purpose.

There’s a function where you can go to a bar with friends. And when it’s over, you leave the bar piss drunk. The screen moves around and stuff, and you can’t walk straight without falling over. If you get into a car, the main character says, “I’m not in a position to make good choices right now.”

It’s almost like Rockstar is trying to educate us.

But their efforts go to waste when the whole game is centered around killing people, running drugs and stealing things.

The main character doesn’t even wear a seatbelt when he drives. You know how I know? Because many a time I have gotten into a head-on collision with another car, or drove straight into a  low obstacle, and flown through the windshield, shattering it, throwing me head over heels about 50 feet away. Yet somehow he always survives.

Wouldn’t you think that if Rockstar was using that to make people wear seatbelts, they’d at least make the guy die afterward? Because nobody can survive a head-on collision at 90MPH, get back up and into the car, and drive away.

Rockstar, I applaud your efforts. But try harder.

I have never felt more unwanted in my life.

It’s like… I don’t have many classes with people in my class, so I’m mostly friends with seniors, with a handful of sophomores here and there.

Still, when the junior class gets together to do something, I always feel….

Ostracized.

Yet, at this point, it feels that there’s nothing I can do about it.

The seniors are graduating this year, meaning that our class will have to step up and take the responsibility. The Sophomores will become Juniors.

And I’ll be under a table.

In the fetal position. Feeling….

Ostracized.

ƒailure.

Alright, there are two things I want to talk about today. One is stereotypes. The other is pop culture. I’ll separate them with a line.

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We all see stereotypes. I’ve written essays on it. I even posted them on my other blog. You can see it here.

“You’re Asian, so you must be hella good at math, and you must play violin and piano.”

The fact is, I CHOSE to play those instruments. And I can’t do anything about math. I suck at it.

Yes, I CHOSE to play them. It was a conscious decision. My mom made my brother take piano lessons when he was in Kindergarten, and I went to the lessons, heard it and asked my mom if I could take lessons as well. I was three at the time. I don’t think my mom ever wanted me to take lessons.

Violin. My parents apparently saw my budding passion for music and used to take me and my brother to watch the Seattle Symphony a lot. Like… a LOT. I remember that when they would tune before they played, that they were going to play “Star Wars,”  because, you know, the introductory chord in “Star Wars” is a B-flat major scale, and the brass tunes to a B-flat… Yeah. Anyway. I remember that one day we were watching TV and I pointed at the violins and I said, “I wanna play dat.” They were like, “O.O really?” I said yes, of course, and I got lessons. I was five. But I screwed around, both in piano and violin lessons, which is why I’m not as good as I should be.

Also: “You’re Asian, so you must play Starcraft, like, 24/7”

No. NO. Here’s the truth: I hate Starcraft. I HATE it. Kinda. I only play it as a last resort, or if certain friends are over at my house.

If you consider this the stereotype, then I’m definitely whitewashed.

It is completely unfair to put me in a group where you expect certain people to  do (or play) certain things just because the color of their hair and the size of their… car….

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As my friends and I were discussing very recently, the world is going down in a ball of flame.

One of my teachers told me and my class that our class is “a bunch of wimps.”  Registration for AP English III this year was an all-time low.

But, in the words of Chuck Norris, and I quote, “If we’re going to win America’s culture wars, we need the younger generations to do it. … We need to re-engage with our young people and plug them in to America’s glorious past so they can build a brighter future. ”

We, as teenagers in the 21st century, have apparently been given a huge responsibility.

But it begins with our attitude.

I honestly feel sorry for Lady Gaga. I don’t like her music or anything, and I don’t think she’s that good-looking, but I think there’s a reason why she hid her secret.

Because people like all of YOU would just make fun of her. Give her credit for hiding it for that long, and give her credit for being so cool about it. Others would have exploded or hid away in their caves on Hollywood Hills.

Sometimes, however, people just ask for it. Like that Kanye West.  But then people who took his image and photoshopped it into other things weren’t very creative. I even saw some of Edward and half-blood whatnot.

Here’s something I thought of a while back, but never put together until today:

Quick question.

I thought this was interesting.

The following passage is an excerpt from a 2004 essay that discusses the decline in artistic awareness, appreciation, and taste in America.

While many of us express disdain at the declining condition of artistic awareness, let alone appreciation, in this country, we cannot honestly express surprise. This general decline in tastes has not escaped the commentary and analysis of cultural critics who have warned us that we may be turning into a nation of Philistines. These same critics have pointed to a pair of causes for this cultural decline. Perhaps, they note, the decline is due to the crumbling state of our educational system, or to the media’s focus on pop culture and the general decline of taste this breeds. Nevertheless, this type of scholarly discussion about the roots of the decline, while relevant to sociological and cultural historical analysis, does not change the sad fact that the same country that gave the world film noir, jazz, and abstract expressionism now mostly concerns itself with teen movies and boy bands. We must use our understanding and analysis of the causes to address the problem of artistic decline in America.

Before we can begin a discussion of artistic decline, we must first define the word “art,” an endeavor that has proven problematic, especially after the introduction of modern art forms during the twentieth century. Indeed, some may argue that the entire debate about artistic decline in this country is flawed due to our exclusion of modern forms of art such as pop music. Many claim that such discussion can be seen as snobby, even culturally imperious. Without entering the debate on the validity of the post-modern conception of art is an idea, the question of “what is art” must be addressed. But it should be addressed expeditiously. Far too much time has been spent arguing over whether a teen movie is more or less art than Citizen Kane is, or whether the music of a boy band is more or less art than are the works of Sondheim. To be fair, society should not adopt an exclusionary definition or attitude. Indeed, history has proven that today’s pop music can be tomorrow’s great art in retrospect. Thus, we should accept all artistic endeavors as art. Individuals and critics should judge the quality of such endeavors. But this does not change the fact that today people are unaware of and uneducated about the classics, or even about recent movements in art apart from cinema, television and pop music.

Think about a United States of America in which artistic education, and thus appreciation, flourishes, a place where parents read books on art and listen to classical music and opera as well as pop music. Children observe these adult activities and mimic them. Parents read to their children and educate them. These parents also give their children art books, classical recordings, and plays as gifts. These parents underwrite, with their tax dollars, public art, public broadcasting,  and community art groups. In school, students receive an education in art history, classical music, and opera. This curriculum can also include pop culture such as the music videos, teen movies, and pop music students enjoy in their free time. In fact, a better education in art will better equip them to judge the artistic merit of these newer, more trendy art forms, or at least place these art forms in historical context and analyze them as an outgrowth of societal and sociological trends–an important aspect of artistic knowledge that has been lost by the general public. When these children grow up, some may produce their own art, which could likely be higher in quality than the pop music and movies produced today. Imagine a land of such developed artistic production and taste! How can we achieve such a society?

Having noted that the proliferation of low quality art in pop culture can be addressed effectively by education,  there remains one fundamental cause for the decline of artistic taste: the crumbling state of our educational system. The society dreamed of above can only be achieved by sustained efforts to improve the American educational system. Unfortunately, with tightening budgets due to increased levels of government debt, often the first programs cut are those that provide art and music classes. Often these cuts are viewed as easy ones by the public since they do not compromise the fundamentals supposedly required for an adequate education: reading, writing, history, science, and math. However, what the public often misses is that art, music, and culture are inextricably tied to literary and historical developments that themselves stem from changes in society and culture. A holistic approach to the arts would both redefine their role in education (thereby subsuming the argument of those who want to focus on fundamentals) and improve the state of artistic education by teaching students in an intertextual and multidisciplinary manner. The first step in improving artistic awareness and taste in this country will be not only to reinstate and improve art, music and other cultural classes but also to restructure the curriculum to provide a more holistic education in which art, music, and culture become a part of the fundamental education in history, literature, and society. This system would require more funding, and most likely higher taxes. However, such an investment would pay dividends by ensuring a more educated populace, one which is better equipped to analyze its surroundings in an analytically balanced manner and one which appreciates all forms of human artistic endeavor.

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Remember, I did not write this!

Reflection.

I can’t say I had the best of days, today, but that’s really not why I’m here.

I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way about their lives, but…. it really seems like the last 16 years of my life have been a blur.

I’m in 11th grade, now. Which is really surprising, because I can still remember my first grade teacher, the general layout of the classroom and pretty much everybody who was in my class. And it only feels like yesterday that I was watching one of my friend spell “does” “deos” and another friend spell “of” with a v.

I could go on about memories, but most of them are bad and I’ve been trying ever since to supress them.

I think I’ve seen a lot in my 16 years. Good people I’ll never see again. Bad people I have to see every day.  I’ve been made fun of about my height. My weight. My last name. My ethnicity. My intellectual level. You know, stuff I can’t change.

I can’t say, either, that I’ve necessarily led a good life, since I have no other life to base it on. But like anyone else, I have my regrets.

I regret not caring about my grades in Freshman and Sophomore year. I regret not sleeping earlier. I regret this and that.

These regrets are affecting my life so much that sometimes I just want to start over.

And starting over begins with ending.

I think you can tell where I’m going with this.

But today, I realized that many things are out of my control. There are many things that I have to be flexible about.  Which, honestly, includes about 85% of the things in my life.

I’ll leave you with a few thoughts.

How much is REALLY in your control? Do you really have control of it?

Memoir for English.

Pt. 1

I sat happily in the airplane. I was too excited for sleep. My peers around me dozed soundly, not knowing what to expect once we started. Somewhat relieved that I had been on this trip before, I prepared myself for the excitement that was to come. There was a chime as the seat belt sign lit up. The captain’s voice rang out across the airplane. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are now arriving in LAX airport in Los Angeles, California. We will be landing in approximately half an hour. I just ask that you stay seated with your seat belts fasted. Thank you.”

Half an hour later, the plane landed with a thunk. As we slowed down, my mind exploded with thoughts. Thoughts of the last trip I took, how we had gone down and simply built a house: a home for someone in need. Nothing told me that this year was going to be different.

Finally, it was time to get off. There was a group of peers that had ridden a different plane before we did, so they had rental vans ready. We headed down to Costco and bought enough food to last us a week. With that, we drove south. Past Anaheim. Past Irvine. Past Laguna Beach. Past San Diego. We drove into Mexico.

It was a drastic change of atmosphere and scenery; palm trees and grass disappeared. Not only that, but… the English language disappeared. The advertisements for the show that would air “this Thursday at 8/7 central” were slowly replaced with advertisements for Tecate. The number of McDonalds’ thinned out. I was face to face with the intense poverty of the country directly south of us.

We reached our campsite. I stepped out of the car and took a deep breath. I had missed the smell of cow manure in the morning. Looking around, I saw that the campsite had not changed. It was still a flat, dusty area with rows of Honey Buckets on one side, stone showers on the other, and a huge pile of firewood off to one side. We pitched our tents, started a campfire, debriefed, and went to bed.

Rise ‘n’ shine, 6AM. Everybody got out of their tents and groggily poured themselves cereal. After breakfast, each person threw on a baseball cap and sunglasses and climbed in the car. We drove down the bumpy road to a small village to meet the owner of the future house. Her husband turned out to be a pastor. Sweet.

Pt. 2

It was the third day. The walls and the roof were going to be put up today. Everybody was working hard, especially one guy. Let’s name him Josh. Josh was working so hard that he refused to take water breaks. While everybody else was taking breaks, he was sitting on the roof, tarring, or nailing pieces of wood together for the walls.

At one point, our pastor basically forced Josh to sit in the shade and take a break. He was offered water, but he refused, claiming that he couldn’t down it. Everybody returned to work, taking turns hammering things, while he sat there. After a while, Josh complained that he didn’t feel good. He was feeling so bad that he had trouble sitting upright in his chair, and that the water bottle in his hand was shaking so hard that if the lid wasn’t on, the water would have spilt out.

The Mexican pastor walked over and asked what was wrong. Josh said that he didn’t feel so good. After a few moments, the pastor offered to heal through prayer. A few minutes had passed when the pastor asked him, “¿Tienes la fe?” “Do you have faith?” Josh replied, “yes,” because, after all, as a Christian, that would be the right thing to say. But the pastor prevailed and asked again. “¿Tienes la fe?” It struck Josh quite hard. He said “yes,” this time with the honest belief that God could heal him. Right afterward, the pastor told him to stand. And he did. His pain was gone. Eradicated. Destroyed. It was the greatest thing I had seen. But it was nothing compared to what I was going to see the next day.

Pt. 3

Flashback. It was the night before we left for the trip. All 20 of us had planned on wearing our red shirts. This way, we thought, we would be able to find each other more easily in the airport and around LA.

Flashforward. It was the fourth day of work. The last day. This day was by far one of the easiest. All we had left to do was to put stucco (a mixture of cement and sand) on the walls to stabilize them. Once that was done, the owner of the house told us that she had something to tell us. She had, one night before we had arrived, a dream that told her that 20 angels wearing red shirts were coming down from Heaven to build her a house. She had imagined it so clearly that she kept a log of it, with pictures. She gave it to us to keep, and broke down in front of us, praising God for all he’s done for her.

This week in July of 2008 was the major turning point of my summer, if not my whole life. Think about it. Is there any logical, scientific explanation for what happened? To put it simply, no. People have always been asking for proof that there is a God. Well, there you have it. I accepted Christ that week and have been living out my faith ever since.