Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Unscripted Connections

To help keep the flow going while I finish up a few shorts and articles for various places here's an anticle I wrote for an old online publication a while back. Read and enjoy(note the article was originally made for a site I still frequent on occassion).

Scripts can dictate many things. In games, they dictate the games responses, and how much damage that blow to the skull actually does to a person. Online, they guide us to the places we want to go, and format things to the way the pagemaster wants. In various MMOs they dictate what kind of clothes we wear, how our responses look, and how the site itself looks. However, the one thing a script can't dictate, are the kinds of connections we make, to the people we meet here. All across the Internet, people have bonded with those they may have never even considered, offline. Gaia is certainly not an exception. General Discussion, Extended Discussion, Anime/Manga/Comics, all of them are merely gathering places for people to chat amongst themselves, and seek out people they could consider friends, and in some cases, something more. While it is true there are many deceivers out there, the anonymity the Internet provides have allowed people to become more open and honest, than they may even initially realize. And with the facelessness, can also come the courage to reach out for help, in ways real life circumstances may stifle.

If you want proof of this, take a look at any place within Gaia. In General Discussion, they are bonded by the chances they are given to bond, and share their lives with the people they come to know and love. Some even speculate it's much like hanging out with your friends in high school(if hanging out with your friends meant having someone randomly show you a mentally scarring picture, of course). Within the Extended Discussion, is a place for any and all people to express their views, and to perhaps seek enlightenment from people who live a different way of life. In the Art Shops & Requests, you can find fellow artists, and find ways to improve your own art, or find new ways to draw and render your pieces, and perhaps purchase some of their art, for yourself. But within these forums, and all others, lie a common theme: Allowing yourself to speak to new people, and letting yourself connect to the people that wish to know you better.

Offline, people face hardships and challenges on a daily basis. Home lives, where the parents constantly bicker and fight. Working jobs that take much more, than they give. Inner demons we battle everyday we wake up. With places like Gaia, we can turn to people we couldn't normally find, and come to them for advice and perhaps a shoulder to cry on, in their greatest time of need. And from this, can emerge the people we come to call the things we cherish most, as seen in this statement from Blissful Oblivion. "There are people I would gladly die for, who I've met online. x) Some are real life friends, some are correspondents from around the world who share things in common. Some are even role models that I may look up too. Surely one may lie and totally be a faker, but I believe them to some extent XD (If I wanted to I can write a long book on the ones I'm really close to , on these sorta sites x) )" It's common knowledge the reason anything online, that thrives and prospers, is because of the community that place builds, and Gaia is certainly not an exception. In time, people we come to see here as strangers, we may come to see as friends. Friends as confidants. Confidants, as the people we cherish, more than anything in this world. And with the strength and courage these people provide us with, we may be able to discover the strength within ourselves to make these online bonds something more. Something we're to see face to face. Something we can hear and feel. Something we can call our own, and have nothing rob us, of the unscripted connection we all share.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Explorations of a Simple Complexity

This one is an essay I've been refining for an English class for the past couple weeks(thus why I haven't been here awhile). The first topic she gave us was telling her who we are and why we are the way we are. and I gladly obliged. Read and enjoy, and as always let me know what you think in the comments.

Ever since I learned how to read, the curiosity floodgates have been thrown open, my thoughts flowing towards unseen terrain. That same curiosity led me to take writing in high school, and the craft has become an extension of my being from then on, giving the voice within a medium to express itself. Around that time Japan and Japanese culture also sparked my interest, slowly growing into the centerpiece of many of my works, including the novel and web-comic I’ve been working on for quite a while. Writing more about the country I began to find greater curiosity in the human condition, in both the psychological and philosophical aspects. One of the concepts of this that continues to fascinate me is the Bystander Effect; in which if someone is in need of aid we’re much more likely to do it if alone than from among a crowd of people. Including that, my craft has taken me down many roads over the years and continues to reveal places untouched, even among the places I’ve already been. If anything one of the running themes in my life is questioning; from why the sky is blue to what my place in the universe is I’ve been looking for endless amounts of things to satisfy my curiosity. In seeking them I’ve unlocked the gates of my mind, discovered maps to places even my mind has yet to tread and made the chance to go and see them first hand.

As is common among young lads my concept of both life and the self was as clear as mud, with writing revealing the gleam under the dirt. I remember well how much my early works revealed my tenuous grasp on complex issues like racism and relationships; in particular the novel I started then was rife with soap opera level drama and sexuality. Even so, there was more I wanted to see in both who I was and what I could create, which kept me filling page after essay after short story over the years. Starting my novel actually sparked my interest in the various subcultures I’ve started writing about and has propelled me to clock in hours upon hours of research paired with hours and hours of drafting and editing, including the volumes of material I’ve collected about Los Angeles and UCLA for an ongoing project I’m still developing. When times were most dire and my curiosity blazed brightest writing connected me to the voice deep inside, the answers I sought flowing through my pen and onto the page. Various family and personal crisis have greatly fueled this, especially when my sole connection to the people I felt closest with was severed and my only implement of expression available to me for many months was writing. In times like these my works served to not only slake my inner thirst, but also act as a road map for whenever I felt lost. This proved true when I fell into confusion about moving from my former residence of 9 years and an old short story of mine instilled the knowledge I sought to move forward. Moving forward has helped introduce me to many things, people and places, the most interesting of which coming to be about a place far to the east.

As I grew older I could feel the next stage of my life coming and knew I needed to do something great so I could prepare to make that jump. One of the things often recommended to help complete a youngster’s transition from that stage of their life to the next is acclimating themselves to a entirely foreign culture and language, eventually working up to traveling to the country itself and learning its way of life, thereby creating a new perspective of ourselves and greater appreciation for both their culture and ours. Some choose France while others may go for Italy, but the country that caught my eye was Japan. Everything from the food to their outlandish styles of entertainment highly captivated me and motivated me to delve into what the country itself had in store. When I first got into it I only knew about the geeky aspects, like the animation, games and so on, putting a rather warped view on how I perceived the country as a whole to be. Once I got into the more traditional aspects of it, as well as some of the more underground scenes my eyes popped open to a whole new world of possibilities, from the slower paced hard work style of living out in the fields to the delicate balance of loyalty and power within the country’s crime syndicates, some even active right here in the United States. When I found out about these wildly different ways of life I knew without a doubt I had to go in head first and dig up as much information and knowledge as I could. With time and deep study of each kind of culture present in Japan something began taking shape in the depths of my thoughts, some unstated connection shared between people of all countries, races and professions. That shape became infinitely more defined when I decided to get on my bike and make my way towards the Japanese Cultural Festival they have each year in Long Beach. After enjoying a bowl of Chili Rice while watching an Ondo dance and hearing the earth shaking thumps of the Taiko Drum performances later that night I came home with a much clearer understanding of what it means to study and appreciate another culture. What I came to understand that night is that there are no racial or cultural prerequisites to studying a culture unlike your own besides passion and an honest desire to understand what you’re looking into. The understanding I gained in that time told me no matter what barriers different cultures have between them, all of them deal with the same issues all people face, in understanding that basic shared humanity do those barriers weaken and crumble, revealing the richness waiting to be experienced and answer the questions we may still hold about it.

The greater challenge, of course, comes from understanding the values we share on top of the preconceptions we may carry with us about those of certain races, classes and professions. I’m sure there aren’t many who hold rap musicians or jocks in very high regard, and I was among them when I began studying the deeper aspects of these basic humanities. Coming from the same format of school many in this nation hail from, I came to see the different classifications people put on themselves and others, as well as the friction that arises from two opposing factions clashing with one another, seeking to discover what common ground each of us share. One particularly vivid show of this friction was the constant tension between some of the black and Hispanic males at my old high school, sometimes growing so great fights broke out in the blink of an eye. As both a writer and an aspiring teacher one thing I want to help do is spread the knowledge needed to quell such fierce flames, and I know to help others overcome these perceptions I must first do so within myself. Each day I learn more about the things that link us to each other and each day I discover even more to this that I have yet to understand. Knowing this drives me to open my mind even further than before, to be more accepting of those around me, even if their beliefs are the polar opposite of my own. I continue to seek out this knowledge to dissolve whatever preconceptions I may hold and free myself to take in the wisdom that flows all around me, so that not only I can gain from it, but others I come across, as well.

Often it’s said that curiosity killed the cat, but seeing that death comes regardless of consequences that saying isn’t something I ascribe particularly close to, nor would I recommend it to others as a way of living. When a mind is closed off to discovery and questioning, a severely limited amount of personal growth is often the case, and thusly people never find out what could be waiting to be found or shown to the world. That kind of life is something I’ve witnessed far too often, in both the media and my personal comings and goings. I highly encourage people to get out there and seek out their desired answers, especially now that more tools than ever are available to do so. I admit I’ve made my fair share of wrong answers in my life, but that is to be expected when seeking out answers. From doing it incorrectly, it is discover how to do it correctly, if not invent something entirely new from this supposed mistake, such as with the invention of Corn Flakes and the discovery of Penicillin. This, among many other things, keeps me wondering about the world at hand and where I can obtain the knowledge I seek, as well as what must be done to obtain it. Above all, there is one key question that stays with me from the moment I wake to the moment I lay to rest: What will I find out about the world and the people around me today?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gym Rat

This is a a short inspired by a prompt I got from another place I often go to. Hopefully it reaches the people who are trying to shape themselves into who they want to be.

"I must be dreamin or...
We're on to somethin'

I must be dreamin' for...
I don't fall in-"

The palm of her hand smacked down on the snooze button of her musical alarm clock. Her auburn eyes leered at the turquoise digital numbers as they glowed "5:30 AM". Crawling out from under her plaid blue sheets she grasped around the nightstand until she felt the cool wooden handle of her fine tooth comb and dragged herself out of bed. She lurched towards the body length mirror propped on the opposite end of her cozily decorated room. As she combed her rich brown hair into its familiar feathered form, her free hand reached for the side of her abs, seeing how much of herself she could grab. She only managed to fill her fingertips, yet as she looked up from her hand, she saw the image burned into her memory when she first began this routine 2 months ago.

She slouched on the couch with her mom and brother, laughing at the sitcom they loved so dearly as she saw a severely obese man run on a treadmill. Her candy bar rolling around on her tongue, she was fixated on the way his blubber swirled around like the ocean waves. Her family laughed and laughed, but she soon noticed her own family was not in much better shape than the man on the TV, and as it soon came to be in her own mind, neither was she. At that moment she began to scrutinize what was left of her candy bar, handing it off to her brother before heading outside for a bike ride. That evening she rode all the way to the edge of town and back, all the while swearing to herself she'd do what was needed to avoid becoming such a hideous monstrosity.

She slinked into her powder blue gym sweats and butterfly emblazoned tanktop, all the while noshing on the granola bars she kept in her gym bag. With all components on hand she power walked to the door and loaded her bag and bottle in her adult tricycle's basket. Her earphones on and music pumping she began her journey anew, peddling hard all 3.5 miles to the local gym before doing her pre-exercise warm up stretches, then doing 3 sets of 25 pushups, 3 sets of 35 crunches, 2 sets of 25 chin ups(switching grips with each set)3 sets of 20 leg curls with the machine set at 140 pounds, and 3 sets of 20 bench presses at nearly twice her body weight, plus many more varied in and out of her routine everyday. Her body tired and slick with sweat, she takes a few laps in the gym swimming lanes before finally relaxing in the hot tub and showering off, dressing up and returning home to prepare for school later in the day. As she rides home she passes by a portly gentleman eating a big, juicy burger, showing her the one thing she's wanted to do since she began this: the ability to smile.