Blog Season 2?

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I know I’ve been absent in my blogging–I’m aware of this fact pretty often. I have ideas laid out for a few posts but they’re not written yet… classic Simon.

Anyways, I thought I throw in a mini life update(?). If any of the other ones are worth writing, I’m sure their truths will stand through the test of time… or something like that.

とにかく, this September…

I am not going to school (Yay!–for now anyways).

I’m still working as a Behavioral Interventionist, twice a week. Sometimes, working with the kids make me so happy like nothing else.

I’m still leading at Young Life, and it’s an amazing community. It gives back way more than I pour into it. It encourages me so much.

I’m still leading at Rappers Without Borders, and our execs are amazing this year. I’m learning so much from this position.

I’m still watching anime, and I got some new perspectives. I feel like a seasoned anime water now, but I’m watching a lot of trash rn.

I’ve been slacking off on taking care of myself like running, yoga, and stuff like that. Stopped drinking beer every night.

Started out a bit depressed (classic) but doing well now.

Church is something I take for granted all too often. It’s the body.

I had an interview with the school board for a student support position. Kind of anxious about the results but, God is good and He is for me.

I recently had to research for kitchenware and vacuums to purchase on Amazon. It’s really not all that different from looking at phones, cameras, or any other consumer goods.

Physical touch was more important than I had realized, and it brought on a lot of healing.

I’m pretty bad at the ‘business’ side of things, whether it be networking, professional development, and ‘stuff like that’.

Maybe I should cut my hair (it’s pretty long, if you haven’t seen me irl).

I said that I would finally learn a street dance this year but…

My producing definitely pulled back to being a hobby.

This isn’t to be negative, but I could be a much, much better person. I recognize some of the areas to grow in, but then I’d have to acknowledge being blind to so many others. I want to be “transformed by the renewing of my mind”. I want lead a Christ-centred life. If anything though, I do have this desire and I know it is good, and I know my faith in God makes me righteous in Him. And in Him is my identity.

I am lazy. I give up too easily. I get frustrated and upset quickly. I’m not good at communicating. And these are all too embarrassingly transparent. Everyone around me knows. How I made it this far I don’t know. Or… no, I do know. And it’s all too clear. I have to remember this, and walk in boldness.

Thank you to everyone in my life who inspire me, teach me, encourage me, support me, help me, heal me, build into me, lets me build into them, lets me heal them, let’s me help them, let’s me support them, let’s me encourage them, lets me teach them, lets me inspire them, and lets me share Christ with them.

Update is over, for now. As Chris likes to tell me, thoughts are an ever evolving process.

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Solar eclipse, Zero no Tsukaima, and Expectations

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There was a solar eclipse today, and I kept on thinking of Zero no Tsukaima, a harem anime I watched back in high school. From what I understand, it was a fairly popular series back when it aired (I mean, how often is it that an anime gets renewed up to 4 seasons?). But it hasn’t aged all that well: characters pretty much follow their archetypes to a T, and it didn’t deviate much from its contemporaries in the harem, romance, comedy, and ecchi genre. But, as I fondly remembered the series’ characters, I wondered why I loved it so much in the first place, and I wondered whether it would still have the same emotional impact if I were to watch the series again today.

Speaking of the eclipse, I had been looking forward to it for about a month, and I actually felt ‘hype’ when I thought about it. I would imagine that it used to be a really big deal at one point in time, when it wasn’t possible to understand the phenomena behind the sun’s disappearing. I mean seriously, it must have raised quite a bit of concern seeing the world turn dark. Fantastical worlds certainly draws influence from this mysteriousness of the eclipse, and so eclipses are used as this rare, ‘only occurs once in every 1000 years’ sort of a thing with connections to magical energy.

ZnT is no different (I don’t want to spoil any of the others), and the eclipse plays a big role in the show’s plot (in season 1). I guess it must have left quite an impression on me because I thought that eclipses were this grand thing, where in reality–and it certainly didn’t help that it was only a partial eclipse from where I was in the world–it just looked like a white dot that wasnt quite round (and I used the necessary special viewing glasses of course). I don’t know what I had expected… I thought that there would be something of significance. And I may have thought that I could view it with my naked eyes.

Expectations rooted in fiction aside, ZnT has a type of fantasy that I’m quite susceptible to, and a lot of it has to do with expectations. Here was a self-insert protagonist who used to live out his mundane, day to day life. But all of a sudden, he is forcibly removed from that world and is brought into a world where, despite differences and challenges, he is surrounded by people, opportunities, and a space to cultivate himself.

In this context, even if there are things that are incredible frustrating–like Louis’ stubborn, abusive, and compulsive behaviour towards our protagonist–there are expectations for a happy ending. Typically, harem romance comedies can be hard to watch because of their skewed balance between frustrations and their resulting pay offs. Counterintuitively, however, there is also the idea that you don’t let frustrations deter you because with this much frustration, there has to be a equal and opposite pay off. Louis is as stubborn as she tries hard at other things, as abusive as she is affectionate, and as is compulsive as she is passionate. I don’t know, I kind of made some of that up, but like actually, everyone’s characteristics have room become good or bad qualities.

Ideally, the level of miscommunication between two people shouldn’t break verisimilitude. Often enough though, they do upset believability and I’m forced to wonder if Anno really meant what he said when he said that most people in the anime industry are autistic.

There’s another thing which I’m quite susceptible to, and it is the longing to be saved. I don’t know, I can’t be the only guy who sometimes wanted a princess to save me. That idea just sounds nice. And it was the same idea with Dragon Maid, and to an extent the Monogatari series. Whether it’s relying on someone else or on your new found power, there is a cause to be okay to act different, because the circumstances have changed. All of a sudden, you have a maid that just wants to love you, or all of a sudden you’ve become immortal due to vampiric powers.

And so… I long for this. I want to be taken out of my world. I want an opportunity for a relationship, no matter how tough it may become (enclosed in that semi-dysfunctional, romantic bond). And I want to be saved and have my circumstances changed.

But what’s crazy is that Christians kind of believe in all of this. I mean, whether they’ve contextualized their relationship with Jesus like me or not, Jesus is nothing short of a supernatural lover who wants to save me. Is this incredibly idealistic or was I simply made to desire Him?

PS

Back then, I fell in love with Louise, and so I fell in love her world. Very similar to Rosario to Vampire. Yes, these are all trashy shows. But as trashy as they were, I loved the incredible moments when characters were willing give their life to save their loved ones. It’s a different kind of trash compared to, say, Eromanga Sensei.

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PSS

So to answer the question at the beginning, I think I’ll still be able to enjoy the show. I like J.C.Staff’s art style, and I love Kugimiya Rie as a seiyuu. Except… I started to like these two things because I watched ZnT. So it’s a bit of a paradox.

My experience with Persona 4 (2008)

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At least once a year during the summer, my employer/client’s family goes on vacation. They usually don’t give much of a notice, and so once again I found myself with a free week. I thought that I would use this time to finally finish my post about my trip to Korea, but I ended up getting distracted by this game called Persona 4 instead…

The thing is, I had gotten recommendations to play P4 many times in the past, but I always declined. Even Chris told me that I would love it, as the game revolves around forming relationships, but I seem to have a tendency to be disinterested when others tell me to try something. I don’t really know why. Maybe things just aren’t as appealing or special unless I come into them on my own (exceptions always exist though).

Anyways, the more ‘reasonable’ reasons why I didn’t try P4 was because of its character design and inaccessibility. I mean, I actually couldn’t play it since it wasn’t available on the PC, and this was my go to reason/excuse. But out of all the things, my boredom while visiting my parents’ house in Nanaimo motivated me consider it again, and upon probing further, I found out that near perfect PS2 emulation had been a thing for a while… *eyebrow dance*

But soon, I ran into another problem–Persona 4 was dubbed. For me, it’s the audio that really brings a character to life, and as I’ve explained before, dubs just don’t convey the same idea of emotions because of the English language itself. But it seemed that I had no choice as I couldn’t read Japanese.

Well, thanks to Google once again, I found out about the existence of an “undub” version of P4. But then again, the English voice acting wasn’t bad, and many other pro-sub people were in agreement, some of whom were even favoring the dub. I wasn’t sure which version to play until I saw a comment saying that they hated the original Japanese voice acting because of a character named Rise, only for me to find out that–to my surprise–her seiyuu was Kugimia Rie! I fondly remembered Louise from Zero no Tsukaima and was super stoked to be able to hear her voice in the game. And then what really solidified my choice for the undub version was that one of the main characters was voiced by Horie Yui. It was a no brainer (I don’t think I’ve mentioned this on my blog but she is my favourite seiyuu).

So… I spent the last two days playing it, and wow, I really went in on this game. For both days, I was up around noon, and I would play the game until about 4am! Except for an hour or two spent on getting food and going to the bathroom, I seriously played nonstop. And I only ‘went to bed’ (as I had been playing the game on my bed) because I was at the point of absolute exhaustion. This binging pattern was kind of reminiscent of me doing drugs…

But I have to say, I’ve never binged this hard on before–or rather, I physically could never. Where did my stamina come from? Are my stretching habits finally paying off? I was both concerned and impressed about what I had just pulled off. I mean, the last time I did something like this was when I played the Fate/stay night VNs last September, but I remember not being able to push past 12 hours a day–not that that’s anything to be proud of. What I have to say though is that, sinking my mind into something to this degree, the experience can go far beyond feeling immersed in the game to feeling some kind of psychosis.

For example, the first time I played Minecraft back in my first year, I think I played for about 8 hours straight. And afterwards, I felt this haunting loneliness for some reason. It was incredibly disorienting to realize the difference between reality and that world where all I did–and could do–was craft stuff. This prolonged involvement inside a limited world caused my mind to become depressed (like, literally physically) and out of touch with reality, resulting in anxiety.

That used to be the case, anyways. It’s actually a weird balance because, after a day of binging, my head actually becomes ridiculously clear–if I can finish the game before the onset of psychosis. There’s a real sense of achievement and letting go of things in the real world that results in some real mental health boosts. As for a game this size… well, I found myself knowing better to stop, and being able to stop, which is why I took the day off to write about it as well as to do some exercise. My body would most definitely have gotten sick if I kept this up.

So I guess it’s indicative of my better overall mental health, which is great. I mean it’s weird; for better or for worse, I’m unable to immerse myself into the game like before. I’m aware that I’m playing a game, but this doesn’t take away from the enjoyment. I often think about its connection to reality like how many man hours it must have went into creating this, or the community that forms around the game. And, as a spiritual health indicator, I found myself naturally checking in with God every once in a while during the game, instead of, say, coming out of a game how ever many hours later and realizing, ‘oh right, God exists in my world’. I mean I was always relieved when I realized it though.

Review?

I have lots of (positive) things to say about P4. I don’t know if I’m in any position/authority to talk about games, but I do try to play at least one or two titles a year. And I do know that I prefer indie games that have the adjectives RPG, visual novel, side-scrolling, rogue-like, pixel-graphics, adventure, survival, open world, and things like that.

Anyways, right off the bat, Persona 4 is pretty much the perfect game for me. First of all, it’s just a really well made RPG. It’s an engaging adventure/mystery story, and I really like that it’s presented in a visual novel format that occasionally switches into anime. I also like that its 3D overworld sprites look pretty much like anime. The 2D character design wasn’t the most appealing for me, but… that’s okay.

One of my favourite games is the Dragon Quest Monsters series. Not many people know about it in the West, but it’s similar to Pokemon in that you acquire monsters to battle other monsters to repeat the process. In my opinion, DQM’s monster breeding system makes it so much more interesting than Pokemon, and well, P4’s monster fusion system is even better than that.

Although I initially felt overwhelmed by the game’s strategy and mechanisms, it turned out to be way less complicated than I thought, and it was definitely worth getting familiar with. P4’s world is open world enough for me, and I could see why Chris said that I would love it. It’s pretty much a study on character and personality, as it shows characters growing up with different struggles and them overcoming their own selves. It’s that thing I like about watching anime and this game is quite intentional about it.

So uh… I guess that’s it for this post. I think I should maybe mention that I usually play with cheats/trainers. Like a little 2-4x exp and money from battles is all. Oh and, as usual, which I think is affectionately indicative of my relationship with Christ, I tend to see our relationships projected onto other things. So here is today’s Christian animeme that I made:

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PS
I started the day with a shower to help clear my head. And in the shower, ideas about this post just flowed out and I was super stoked on sharing… And then I came out of the shower and after drying my hair and all that, I could feel the enthusiasm dissipating. This has been a really big problem for my post on Korea, and let’s just say that I learned once again the valuable lesson that I can’t just rely on passion and inspiration to finish projects. Sucks though.

PSS

Shout out to Yukiko for dissolving most of the self conflict that I experienced in this post in mere 2 sentences.

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According to BuzzFeed (I know, right?), “Korean students study up to 13 hours a day”. I mean, regardless of the exact average, looking at multiple sources including my dad, it’s definitely up there… kind of puts it all into perspective how I have it so good.

Re-envisioning RWB as a club (2017)

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Here are a few thoughts that I have after leading as the president of RWB for a year. As my first time being in an exec position, I’ve certainly learned a lot and discovered many of my shortcomings. Here are some thoughts that I would like to pass onto myself and any future exec members:

Perhaps most importantly, I realized the importance of having a clear vision for the club. What is the purpose/motivation behind existing? Is there another organization or group that does the same thing? How are we different from what’s already available? Asking these questions are important because, unless we identify and understand this, we likely won’t have the motivation to continue when the times get rough. And it’s also important to realize that we can’t do everything. We need to do what’s possible with the resources that we have right now (funding/budget, availability, helpers, space, etc). Look at it as leaving room to grow.

And if we’re building a community, it may be necessary to consider the legacy of the club. How will the club continue to exist/run after the current execs are gone? We have to be intentional with inspiring or drawing the attention of future leaders.

And this is one of our current problems. I know that we want to build a community, but I realized recently that we’ve been doing it wrong: we’ve been trying to form a community around hip hop when we should’ve been trying to form a community through hip hop. What I mean by this is that we are not just a group of people who like hip hop. Hip hop has helped us in different ways, and we want to celebrate that.

Hip hop, then, is the coming together of diversity. We as students come from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We meet, express ourselves through the art of hip hop, and we learn from each other. That’s hip hop — a way for people from different backgrounds to easily come together.

Another thing I’ve realized was that we weren’t including people effectively. We certainly welcomed people and wished for their participation in our events, freestyling and performing may not be the easiest thing to introduce yourself into. Our focus on showing that we’re out there certainly generated interest, but this didn’t bring us very many returning members. If our freestyles were bad, people didn’t want anything to do with us. And if our performances were amazing, people shied away. We become a performance and therefore something for people to consume, not something to be a part of.

My friend Kevin told me this: every person and their stories are beautiful and incredible. There is something to be learned from each of them. So the question is, how are we including students who can’t/don’t want to freestyle or care about hip hop? Previously, our focus has been for us to be a platform for artists to connect and craft their skills. While there is certainly a need for such organization, in my opinion, this isn’t nearly as important as connecting people through hip hop. And the fact is, we simply don’t have enough resources to achieve this properly right now. I want to avoid being stretched too thin and instead build slowly but consistency.

Moving forward, we have to understand that we’re going to have to hand the torch off to someone else one day. And it is necessary to take our hands off completely because, otherwise, our presence and authority will be a hindrance to the club’s future growth. Instilling ownership is crucial to their success. I have to trust in other people’s vision and that a good seed has been planted.

As parting words, I want RWB to be a community that embraces hip hop to build ourselves. I want a club that I’m passionate about and is rewarding in itself to run. I want to have events that are inclusive and entertaining, by being something that will be fun even if it’s just the few of us. If we start off with like this, we can’t do no wrong. As for the bigger picture, I want a community and a culture of being inclusive by loving people for who they are. I want the community to be built on this ownership of changing our culture.


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Image is from The Get Down

I can’t stick to a theme

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been plagued by the need to choose the perfect theme for my blog. I even got the business plan ($32.42/month) to try out the premium themes. My justification was:

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I’ve been on this road before, when I spent around 6 hours trying out all the free themes. The grass definitely looked greener on the premium side, but it seems that the moral of the idiom still stands. These were some of my unwelcoming discoveries:

  1. As long as the blog is hosted on wordpress.com, you can’t use any of the downloadable themes and plugins
  2. Customizing a theme is a surprisingly restrictive experience and there isn’t a standard for customization parameters
  3. Most blog styles are oriented for photography portfolio, hipster fashion, or a startup ventures.

I must have spent another 4 hours trying out the premium themes. What contributed to this length was the lack of vision I had for my blog’s purpose and audience. But after facing many restrictions in the blog styles, I now have the ideal image of my blog in my head:

A blog that is boxed in and doesn’t stretch on wide aspect ratios. From the top: the blog title or a banner, and a menu below it. A single column view of my posts, with a featured image serving as the cover/icon for the post. An excerpt of the post, truncated automatically without me needing to insert the read more tag. A right-hand sidebar widget that stays there across all pages. Finally, it would be nice if a search bar was built into the menu bar.

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That’s about it. What’s funny is that this is basically one of the very first WordPress themes, made by their team, called Twenty Ten. The problem with this one is that it doesn’t have the option to automatically truncate my posts and that it doesn’t use the picture from featured image. Although it was possible to get around these two issues by doing more work, the lack of customization options this theme had along with the small font size was an issue for me. And although I couldn’t figure out how, Digibro who uses this theme has his search bar in the menu tab.

So even after all the looking, I wasn’t able to find the theme I wanted — and perhaps I never will. But overall, this process has helped me to better realize the vision for my site. What I wanted was a blog; a medium comfortably restricted by texts and pictures. Nothing too proper and business-like or too minimalistic and hipster-like. I wanted my blog to feel casual and welcome, like a mom’s blog with cooking recipes and household items reviews. Something that shares life experiences and can be trusted. I mostly just want to express and share my thoughts, but I also want the blog to be a bit of a plug for my art. This blog is not my profession, but it’s also not just a hobby. I want to eventually establish a voice in the communities that I’m passionate about.

 

Thoughts on blogging

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It’s been about 2 months since I’ve started blogging and… here I will be blogging about my blogging:

My single biggest challenge in blogging is finishing blog posts, which is not something I had anticipated. But this does make sense as I have the same problem with my music projects. What will often happen is, I’ll be super inspired by an idea or a topic and I’ll compulsively start to write everything down–thoughts, ideas, quotes, links, and what have you. But about 1500 words later and without a clear sense of direction, I realize that I now have to piece it all together and make it concise. The post needs to make sense, be informative, interesting, engaging, and it needs to be done as soon as possible. I like to view writing like viewing anime: there is a narrative–that is, my life experiences and thoughts–and I have to present some kind of beginning, middle, and an ending. And so then we have our basic essay format. Too often though, considering all of this can be a lot of work, and it’s not always possible to get it done by spending a lot of time on it. Sleeping on it and waiting a while can help me be the more objective and clear-headed, but at the same time, I risk losing the initiative or risk forgetting some of the peripheral ideas that I wanted to mention (like a good transition or example). But before anything else, I think that I have to write a good introduction.

So I’ll start writing the intro — the very first paragraph. It should be interesting and not too wordy so that people will want to keep reading it. Sometimes though, I’ll make the mistake of not considering the focus of the whole post and I’ll end up revising it everytime I feel that the rhythm and direction of the post had changed. So, it’s important to have a grasp of the whole post first. Of course, at times, you can’t do this without writing some of the middle parts first.

So I ask myself: what is this post about? What do I want to say? What will my content be: informative, argumentative, autobiographical, or a review? What will my tone be: friendly, teaching, satirical, objective, or humorous? And how do I actually do that? Is this part really that important? Should I save it for another post? And should I just quote him saying what I want to say?

This is all fun though. I certainly enjoy it more than writing scientific papers where I have to start with finding sources for everything. With blogging, I feel as though I’m sharpening my ability to articulate my thoughts and feelings, which I think is a very important skill for me to have. I want to express and explain myself accurately and in a way that is easily understandable.

I found that a good way to start a post is to explain how I came about on the topic, so that the post is me sharing what I learned or thought of something. It feels informal, friendly, intimate, and inviting. But I could also take a more expert approach and start with what the current landscape of whatever the topic looks like and go from general to specific. If I’m arguing, I guess I’ll present what I disagree with and why. I’m still working on the voice of my blog posts, but I will say that I value the blogger’s subjectivity more than objectivity because to me, that’s the purpose of following that particular blogger’s works.

There are other things to mention, but this is good enough for now. Blogging is cool because it feels good to express your ideas and, in the case of this post, the methods in which you’ve been sharing your ideas. So far, it hasn’t become easier to write. There are a whole lot of different styles and variations to writing, and I’ve yet to find one that suits me. There are a lot of conventions and rhetorics in writing that I’m just finding out about.

Speaking of which, writing is interesting because it forces you to process the meaning of what is written. And the way in which there are nuances are directly reflected by the way we communicate and have language. Let’s talk about how a style of writing is developed. For example, for a poem, someone must have done it first and it caught on. Of course, they might not even have called it a poem then, and certain rules in writing got grouped together to be called poems. It can be a category, a style, a rule, or even a movement. And how these things are established is when something works well, and is copied. And then it becomes popular to the general public. I think the general tendency of popular things are whatever that is easily understand and feels familiar. Eventually, a trend becomes big enough, or diverge enough and becomes its own thing, another standard. This is seen in all forms of art but in writing especially, the variability must be as endless as we as capable of cognition.

It’s also interesting to think that in any given faculty, like science, there are clear patterns of development. First we study the origins, the history. What happened, who started it, why was it needed, what was it for, who developed what, who changed it, how was it adopted, how was it popularized? How does this reflect the situation of the times?

And the faculty usually grows parallel to new technological advancements. New technology allows for different perspectives and new conventions. Art is directly influenced by the technology to create art. Without certain methods, we can’t do those types of art. Or in other words, we only do certain types of art because of the limitations in our current technology.

So right now, in the internet age, I’m writing a blog. Although videos and memes are more prevalent nowadays, the medium of blogging is interesting because it allows for discussions of both subjective and objective answers. It puts out my thoughts and experiences to the public, and another human being, with their own history, experience, and capability is going to react to mine.


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Image is a screenshot from Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken S1E01