Year One, and an update

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Hey WordPress,

It’s been a while. Today is kind of a special day for this blog because a year ago today is when I had started this blog. It was Christmas night, and everyone in my family was off in their own rooms; I was sitting on the dimly-lit living room sofa. Feelings of loneliness emerged…

I felt lonely to be at this place called home, and the usual impulses came to me: drinking, smoking, masturbating, watching anime… things like that. And as usual, I identified them as something that I didn’t fully want to do–I would much rather be having fun with people if it were an option. But there are seldom things to do on Christmas, much less last minute plans.

So looking back, I’m actually surprised at my decision–or should I say, resolve–to start this blog. I had been meaning to join in on discussions surrounding anime, and I actually did it. And what a journey it has been already.

I had been blogging fairly consistently up until my family and I visited Korea back in July. The trip was certainly an eye-opener for me in terms of me recognizing my privileges and the cultural assimilation that had taken place.

Since then, I’ve been learning about a few key concepts that has been helping me better understand who and how I am, one of which I want to share today: capacity. I learned about capacity through facing a dilemma during my trip:

The problem was that I felt incredibly torn between two seemingly exclusive methods of presenting personal narratives. One method was to share my thoughts and observations in the moments that they occur in, and the other was to wait until there is some conceivable resolution and present my perspectives after-the-fact.

This is what would happen: I would have all these passionate and emotional thoughts from events that I would write down to help me remember later. In these moments, I would feel strongly compelled to share them with just about everyone, only to feel extremely awkward in sharing them afterwards when, frankly, I don’t feel so strongly about them anymore.

I realize that running on emotions isn’t the smartest thing to do all the time: ‘don’t fight when you’re angry’ or ‘don’t shop when you’re hungry’ comes to mind. But many times, I felt frustrated in knowing that my depression had a large part in my motivation and enthusiasm levels having a very short half-life. ‘What’s the point? Who would want to read this anyways? Who cares?’

And so, I wanted to do my reporting right away in order to appropriately capture the sense of rawness of the emotions I experienced from the situations that I came across. After all, that’s what I really wanted to share, things that I found to be poignant.

As for the real world, I didn’t really have the opportunity to make that choice in Korea because I didn’t have the time or the WiFi (I know right? In Korea?) available. And so… if I ever write about Korea, it’s by definition going to be from a retrospective perspective. For better or for worse, writing things after-the-fact does tend to have more wisdom and clarity in them, which the immediate perspectives can lack.

What happened after I got back from Korea, and what frustrated me enough to make me give up on writing about it, was in my pursuit to capture my trip just as I had experienced it. It was so that readers could experience it as well, as close to mine as possible. I know that may sound silly, but it came from my strong desire to be understood. The experiencing of culture shock, discovering the weight of family, and painfully coming into an understanding my privileges after re-visiting Korea after 14 years was staggering, and I wanted to share exactly that.

I remember on the plane ride back, I started the blog off with something like: “It’s been quite a journey. As I’m flying back…”. I couldn’t finish it because it was just too big of a project. But as I kept sitting down to write the rest of the contents afterwards, I would be stuck at modifying the introduction portion of my post to match the passing of time. And with each iteration, I would try really hard to capture the challenges of the last iteration and so on…

It became a really big mess. I even considered putting all these into a prologue and calling it a day. But of course, I wanted an actual prologue to talk about my expectations about going to Korea that I hadn’t written yet…

No, it just wasn’t going to happen. At least not to the standard I wanted it to be. At a point, it wasn’t even about the narrative being shared as much as it was about the way it was being shared, in its structure, pace, clarity, etc. I wouldn’t have been satisfied unless the work satisfied me.

Yeah no… I was attempting to write about something that I myself didn’t have a coherent understanding of. The trip was emotionally dense. There were so many themes. I mean, it was my life. I thought that I unpacked and decompressed all that I was in my most-ambitious-to-date blog post series. But nope. My family issues and probably corresponding emotional issues were just starting to be identified and recognized.

That’s going to be fun to unpack, learn about, heal through, but only after understanding all the brokenness and being exposed to all the pain again. Holy Spirit wants me to be whole again. Am I going to accept the invitation?

I can’t remember where I first heard the word, capacity. But it’s become a keyword in that I think of things in terms of capacity now. I think my friend Chris the architect guy uses it a lot. Simply put, what I wanted to achieve, is beyond my current capacity.

On the other hand, my Twitter has become the medium to share the thoughts and emotions of the immediate. I use it frequently and I’m really enjoying using it.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Growing through blogging: communication structure and formats

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You know, I like thinking about things, and there are many things that I want to explore and learn more about. In my life, anime has been a great facilitator for this–in the themes and emotions they are able to convey–and in conjunction with lived experiences, this makes for great blogging material/inspiration.

I like how Digibro always seems to spontaneously create new video series. In particular, I like the idea of his “decompression chamber” series, in which he just talks about things to relax his mind.

I can relate to this because while writing my own blogs, through living life (as we all do), things constantly come up that I’ll feel is significant enough to share–right in the middle of working on a project. It’s not convenient, but that’s life. So… which one takes precedent?

This got me thinking more about the formats of my blog posts. Blogs are really cool because it allows content creators to create contents as well as share what the creation process looks like in their life. For this reason, people who follow bloggers are interested in both the bloggers’ works as well as the bloggers themselves.

So a good blog format is important as it would allow me to balance the two types of contents. Of course, there are so many ways to share what’s going on in my life, but I feel that something needs to be flexible and/or vague enough to cover this exact kind of thought rambles. And of course, being who I am, I kind of want everything to be a little project, especially when I see their potential to be reoccurring (and it has been).

So what exactly is this kind of post? I personally look at it as a meta blogging post. But the thing is, even if other people don’t have a separate and intentional post category for this, everyone does it. It’s universal and necessary. So my advice for new writers is to just keep writing, because developing a style comes from the process of trying to develop a style, trying out the style, and then making adjustments from how it all feels. And that all depends on your life season you’re going through. It’s a living process. But it’s all necessary, even the shy disclaimer that says ‘hey this is my first time writing…’ on the first post. These are like little platforms that we build, and I kind of want to try embracing it.

When it comes to writing styles/voices, I really like how TWWK from BTT writes. I mean for one thing, his experience with writing shows, but I also just really like his structure where he seems to effortlessly share from his own life, use anime scenes as examples, but always brings it back to God. It sounds simple enough and logically obvious to format it that way, but I can’t seem to do it nearly as well. I also find TWWK to be relateable and humble.

I recently started following Neighborhoodotaku from Otaku Collision. He values honesty and vulnerability, and this is reflected in his writing. This makes for some blunt, powerful, and effective communication. Again, I want to do be able to do this too, as I can clearly see the value of blogging like this, but it’s a really vulnerable process.

I also want to mention JekoJeko from UEM!. His writings are… basically analytical essays on anime. I’ll name drop the fact that he is a Harvard student, and wow, does he brings out some really thoughtful and well researched content. He clearly reads a lot, which is something I need to work on, in order to be guided in thinking about complex topics.

Finally, the lady from The Six-Foot Bonsai. She is quite fierce in her voice and gives a much needed criticism against Japanese culture. She’s lived there for a number of years and brings a valuable perspective to the community. Seeing the negative implications of a culture I love so much isn’t always fun, but it ultimately does more good than harm to learn about these things.

I love reading and learning from these writers because they do a great job being thoughtful and interesting all the while just sharing their life. And all of this is kind of new for me. I was a fairly ignorant and lazy person who loved to chase feelings for most of my life, and blogging has been helping me to be more intentional and directional with my thoughts and passions.

Blogging has also helped me practice formulating and articulating my thoughts, I feel that I can use this skill anywhere else, with many other topics and themes. I want to learn more about the world, learn more about God, have more to say about politics, human rights, racism, feminism, religions, and so on. And aniblogging itself is great too. As E-Kon says here:

“I started to read anime blogs because some shows left me with these weird feelings that I couldn’t quite put into words. And these reviewers helped me re-contexualize what I was feeling. When you’re a young, lonely nerd, coming off this Eva binge with a strange sense of emptiness, reading a review can help you understand why this show made you feel this way, and what that says about you as a person. It’s extremely valuable, really. This is ultimately the first step to becoming a more contemplative fan.”

The feeling of being helped to re-contexualize things is so valuable. So I’ll keep trying and writing; all of this is a learning experience, and a necessary step to getting better. Blogging is a powerful medium, for both the creator and the consumer. I absolutely love blogs like Humans of New York and Nas Daily where they shine love on the world. And they do an incredible job sharing stories.

In life, people go through different seasons at different times, and for different lengths. I don’t always remember this, but I would like to, if possible, help us grow, build, and communicate.

 

 

Writing problems: self-meta-analysis and self-doubts

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This post will be about exploring my thought processes during my struggle to write the ‘perfect’ introduction for my upcoming post. My motivation is that, by sharing–and thus having had the opportunity to express myself–I won’t feel the need to go through these rather taxing thought exercises again. At the very least, these exercises are interesting to me, and they would serve to be a snapshot of my current thought tendencies and analytical approach that I can look back at in the future.

Alright, so as I first sat down to write my post, the fact that I hadn’t posted anything in a while was glaring out to me. And so, in addressing this, I considered having the title be something like “May 2017: post-finals, post-birthday & my life at the age of 23”, and the post to start as follows:

“I hope that the title can serve to explain–and excuse–why it has been almost a month since I had last posted. Right now, as I consider how I should go about presenting all the little stories that happened in some meaningful coherency, I’m thinking of opting for the autobiographical life update style, because, as such, all the stories can be deemed coherent by their nature of them stemming from my experiences. As well, I would like to express my desire in setting a new tone/voice in my writing, in reflection of me wanting to live life without fear of the past, future, or of judgment. As such, it may be unavoidable for this post to have a manic edge to it, as I’m going to boldly declare a lot of personal thoughts that reside in the present. By prefacing all of this, I hope to encourage myself to be open and unfiltered. I like to think that setting up such a forward/disclaimer unapologetically exemplifies my thought process, and, pointing this out–at this risk of getting into a thought loop–is what makes me me (I think). Anyways, this will be an honest and real life update of me at 23, in what it means for me to live life. It sounds dramatic, and/but it kind of is. But it needs to said and processed in words, even just for my sake; to facilitate moving on, acceptance, and being steadfast in the truth to live in its reality.”

So… that’s a whole lot of words just to say “hey I’m just going to say how I feel now”. That’s why I completely rewrote it today, but I didn’t want to get rid of this because I think it perfectly captures the way I rationalize my thoughts. And given that I was introducing a series of personal, emotional, and real life experiences (as opposed to anime analysis), I was probably/rightfully a bit manic/hyper to say the least. But what my attempt at creating the perfect introduction​ highlights is my intense desire to intently express myself in hopes that my whole being can be easily understood. And if you thought that the above was bad, it was exponentially worse when I was on psychedelics. I obsessively tried to rationalize every thought I had, and then the whole rationalizing process was explored, and while that never ceased, I would feel satisfied with the fact that I was able observe all these things in my head all the while processing it. It’s this weird literature meta mania, and it was very taxing.

But back to the topic of rewrites, I want to call attention to the fact that the words of the first draft flowed out quite naturally to me, as opposed to the edited and restructured versions where they went through some cognitive processing. Although in most cases I would prefer the polished draft, I feared that this process was taking away from the writing’s reflection of my truer tone and intentions. The difficulty in discerning this is that my head space can become quite convoluted when I spend too much time writing and considering what to edit. Like, for example, with this very post, given that the nature of this post is meta-analytical, I had my brain in knots until I had walked away for like half the day. Initially, I didn’t want to walk away because doing so may dissolve the original feel and drive of the writing; plus I just wanted to finish the post. But, as always, knowing to take the break is something that I have had to work on.

On a slight tangent, I experience similar problems when I produce music. After listening to the same 10 second parts over and over again, it just all mushes together in my head. Either everything sounds right, or everything sounds wrong. Do these elements go together? Should I go back to the original drum pattern? I don’t know. But, moving away from the OCD like anxiety, the good news is that practice does makes perfect. Zaytoven even says that he doesn’t spend more than 10 minutes on making a beat. With art (or with anything really), productivity and consistency is more important than talent, and the later definitely comes with time. I like how Digibro can just turn on the camera and talk without a script and have the content be fairly coherent. Maybe I’ll be there in a few years too.

Once again going back to the writing, I think it’s interesting to note that before I took the break, I felt more negatively about my first draft then I do now. In my initial notes, I had wrote that the first draft sounded very manic, and I perceived my tone to be embarrassingly assertive and declarative. I had rewritten the introduction with that in mind, with a focus to be more friendly:

“I realize that it has almost been a whole month since I had last posted. As there are a lot that I want to share, I’ve been struggling to capture the right tone to introduce this post. But, in wanting to start things off simple, I’ll just put it out there that I’m going to write this post as if I’m just talking to a friend. Now, is this introduction really necessary? Probably not. But this preface encourage myself to just do it, and reminds me to take it easy. I’m also leaving this in here for the sake of showing my concerns when it comes to writing. Plus, pointing this out is a degree of self rationalization that I kind of like about myself, and one that, I think, demonstrates my general thought process. Okay, let’s go:”

This one isn’t perfect either, and I think that, at the time anyways, with the limitation of this being an introduction for a lengthy narrative piece about me, I felt very conflicted in how I could (without changing the tone too much) explain my belief that there must be a reason for the way I think, and in trying to understand it, I can hope to explain myself to others (and to myself) who and how I really am. I don’t know, writing is interesting like that. You’re kind of reinventing yourself, putting yourself in words and therefore consolidating, to some degree, your perspectives.

I don’t know if other people’s inner monologue sounds like this. Maybe everyone is like this, at least at different times (granted I’m not like this all the time either), or maybe it’s just me. In which case, it may be coming from a place of me being defensive, in that by presenting my perspectives with a degree more objectivity, I can removing myself from the content, so that if I’m criticized, they can’t be criticizing me personally. Or, at the same time even, it may be coming from a place of trying to sound intelligent, like hey look at me I can think in all these complicated ways. At the very least, I’ll admit that I do find comfort under these disclaimers. But like I said, now that I’ve said all of this, I should be good.

Although I’ve had bigger fluctuations between mania and depression (though its clinical significance has/had not been confirmed) in how I view myself, I’ve learned that life has different seasons, and that my change in feelings is natural. It’s just a bit frustrating because I’ll talk to my friends passionately and later on (like weeks later sometimes), I’d feel like I misrepresented myself. And then worry that they have the wrong idea about me. But I think we are capable of undesrstanding.

Let me ‘cliche-ly’ end this post with a quote:

“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.”

― Stephen M.R. Covey, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything

PS

You know, even for this post I changed the title like three times. I mean originally, the intention behind this post was to expand upon and explain the introduction that wouldn’t have fit very well within the post. And then I realized that this whole thing is an example that I can use to explain myself. And in the end, I realized the overarching topic of this being a writing problem.

PPS

Writing is kind of weird. I don’t think I’m very good at it. My head feels dizzy sometimes. It takes a lot of concentration to retain ideas, to develop them as they are being written, and to formulate a logical organization. And, as I’ve mentioned, every time I look at it, depending on my feeling, what I wrote may sound wrong or insufficient. Writing, is an art form on its own.

PPPS

At the end of all this, I wonder if it really was worth all the effort. Cue Miyazaki’s ‘anime was a mistake’ meme but with blogging. I’m mostly aware that it’s the tiredness negativity talking (it’s midnight now and I kind of worked on this the whole day), but it’s interesting to note this phenomenon where self-doubt comes in right after a period of hyperactivity/excitement. And honestly… it’s because I’m worried that I made a fool out of myself in my manic moments of, “hey look at me, this is who I am, I’m so sure of myself,” when I obviously fluctuate in my confidence, as shown right now. But luckily, I know better to take my thoughts captive. And plus, like, who cares if I mess up, it only goes up from here. And yes, these are all aforementioned ‘self-comforting disclaimers’ presented via stating self-awareness. This is me though, and I’m okay with it.


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Image is of Yui from K-ON

Where I want my blogging to go

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Now I’m aware that I just wrote a whole post on Digibro, but I wanted to quickly reference him again to highlight something different. In a follow up video to the vlog where he calls out anime YouTubers (which reminded me of Kendrick’s verse on Control), he starts the video off with, “… if you’re following [me], you probably have a deep interest in who I am as a person as opposed to just my opinions about anime…”. This is absolutely true–for me anyways–and this relationship aspect of blogging is what I want to discuss in this post; this is what I want to build.

I enjoy watching Digibro’s videos because of the approach to communicating with his viewers that he has established. While it certainly helps that my opinions are generally aligned with his, I love how Digibro is just being himself (his drunken rants partially notwithstanding). His anime analysis, then, are just elaborations of his “what” and then the “why” opinions.

When it comes to music analysis, I subscribe to theneedledrop (Anthony Fantano). Fantano uses distinct and colourful adjectives to describe sounds in a way that usually leaves me appreciating a record in a new way. His impressive knowledge base (the current culture, origins of sound, landscape of the industry, etc) allows him to look at a record through multiple perspectives (commercial value, originality, influences, etc). And although his reviews aren’t necessarily objective, by offering his singular subjective analysis on a such a vast library of albums, he has established meaningful objectivity for those who follow him.

This style of reviewing feels more like sharing critique rather than claiming authority on art. Since objectivity is impossible and pointless when it comes to art anyways, I think that the idea of following a critic for their personal opinion is far more interesting. Both Fantano and Digibro employ this style–and they make this transparent–and Digibro takes it a step further and shares his life outside of his content creation. The art of sharing one’s life, I guess. And it’s always interesting to see the life of someone who really likes the same thing that you like.

This is where I want my blogging to go; I want a writing voice that sounds conversational. Not only is it easier for me to write this way, I think that it is necessary to establish a relationship to be able to talk about the heart of challenging or emotional topics. Topics like depression, sexism, racism, religion, politics, and etc. I want my friends to be my readers, and vice versa. This is why I love and believe in Young Life, which its core philosophy is based on the idea of forming relationships and sharing life together. As my supervisor loves to say, “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.”

As I realized from working with various ages of children, there is so much joy in teaching and sharing the lessons and perspectives that you yourself have learned over the years. Like the mistakes that you’ve made that you don’t want them to repeat, if possible. Or just simply knowing that you shaped someone’s perspectives in a fundamental way.

I love analyzing, but even more so understanding its process. I am fascinated by the ability to categorize and compartmentalize ideas and problems, to better understand the topic in relation to everything else, and to be able to easily explain it to others. I desire to share how I see the world connect together and how the world makes sense to me. And especially, I’m curious about the psychology behind why people like the things that they do. And in the core of the curiosity is in wondering why I am the way I am. Sometimes, when things amalgamate in ways that you didn’t expect, it just feels like life makes sense, and at the same time appreciate its complexity. What I’m trying to describe is my enjoyment of looking at things holistically, rather than being an expert in one area.

Realistically speaking, however, in order for anyone to care about my opinions in the first place, I have to be an expert in something. This may be broad and ambiguous, but I would love to understand relationships. This reflects why characters are the most important part of a show for me.

A quick shout to FrankJavCee, who I think has found an amazing balance between being informative and entertaining in his videos about music projection and music trends. And Vsauce, who I think does such a wonderful job capturing the curiosity of the human mind in his ‘stream-of-consciousness asking more questions than giving answers’ videos.

These would be my influences for my blogging and thinking patterns. To end, here are some quotes that I thought of while writing this post:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
– Albert Einstein

“The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.”

– Occam’s razor


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Image is from Hyouka

What is my voice?

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What can I do that no one else can do? How can I be bettering the world? What kind of voice and perspectives do I have that is is unique to me? I remembering asking myself these question about a year and a half ago during an acid trip. As an artist, the answers would give me direction. As a human being, they would give me understanding.

I have three cultures inside of me: Canadian (American), Korean, and Christian. And at different times in my life, I’ve oriented myself towards the Greek (frat) life, musician life, stoner life, rapper life, and one-true-love kind of life. And the thing is, each of these has their own merits and positive influences in the world.

One of my closest friends subscribes to pick up. While I continue to find the general concept of pick up appalling, I now have the understanding that in today’s culture, many men seek out these teachings in order to learn how to pursue meaningful relationships, sex being an aspect of this in varying degrees. And this depends completely on the individual, which make sense. What I didn’t realize was that for many, this approach has allowed them to come out of depression, find self-confidence, and overcome personal fears.

I think I would have liked pick up back in high school, when movies like the American Pie series looked really appealing. The male pandering view of college life was something to look forward from my repressed living situation at the time. I mean, it was completely selfish and immature, but I guess that’s where I was back then. But to be fair though, the reality Greek life, at its core, is a community of brothers and sisters who commits to support and care about each other.

What something actually is, and how it is expressed can look radically different. Feminism is about gender equality. Black lives matter is about racial equality. And hip hop is actually a countercultural and an alternative lifestyle from violence and oppression. Stoners gravitate towards having a peaceful life, seeking a constant and attainable state of pain relief and and enjoying life from a different perspective. Drugs literally pull you out from your current state of experiencing and can help you to feel differently about the current circumstances. Whether this is good or bad is–obviously–complicated. But speaking from my experiences, it can be an incredibly eye opening experience to be taken out of what is a sober but toxic world view.

With music, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I have thought, at one point in my life, that I could maybe try to make it in a rock band. Expressing your passion and having the limelight to make other people excited seemed totally amazing. And the sort of ‘do whatever you want to do’ kind of freedom seemed empowering. Compared to this, jazz is entirely different. It’s about pursuing virtuosity and accepting practicing music 8 hours a day as your life. Jazz musicians… they’re a weird bunch. They really do it for the music. But there is an aspect of jazz which is a life of music and drugs masked under prestige and class.

Hip hop is interesting because it has always been more than a genre. Coming from sample based music, it naturally embraces diversity and celebrates differences. While at this it’s found mainstream success in its trap age, there are still wordsmiths out there pouring out their hearts. And their words inspire life. On the outside, however–and understandably–it looks like the epitome of materialism, sex, drugs, and pursing power.

When it comes to positivity in sex… I feel as though it’s almost a waste to have sex that wasn’t great. And how can you have great sex without knowing that the other person is enjoying themselves too? Maybe think about it in terms of investment–like doing a group project. Wouldn’t you want to be paired up with someone who actually wants to contribute? Sex can be a beautiful balance of giving and taking, serving and being served. And apparently many pick up teachers preaches this.

When it comes to the anime I enjoy, it’s is all about the ideal. It’s a life of innocence, simplicity, and companionship. And I enjoy Japan’s culture of respect, service, and trying your best, as well as its collectivism attitudes compared to the West’s individualism. I mean, honestly, there’s good in both. It’s more of knowing the balance.

I used to think of myself as a romantic. While pursuing love is certainly not a bad thing, the romantic idea of love is apparently a new thing. Disney portrays this heavily in a very specific way, with the mom is always frustrated and condescending, and the dad always dumb. It also portrays that falling in love is the best thing that can happen to you. It’s the idea that there is someone out there who will love you for who you are. But then I wonder then if you would be able to love them for who they are. Even at best, romance is sort of a ‘life will be okay as long as we have each other’ and a “us vs. the world” thing.

Cultures are essentially cults at large. Traditions, norms, acceptability and so on that have established themselves over time. But Christianity I think, as a culture, is kind of different. In its core is Jesus, and it’s the idea that we can’t do anything without Him. We rely on Him, and form a community based on Him. He is the tree and we are the branches. And our intrinsic value and confidence comes from the fact that He loves us so much that He died for us. There is something transformative about orienting yourself to see life this way.

I still don’t know what my voice is. But maybe I can rely on Him for wisdom. Once again, Philippians 4:8:

“… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”


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Image is from Le Petit Prince