Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back to School

I began my Spring classes at East Bay today. It was nice because after nearly two weeks of rainy, mucky weather the sun came out on a brilliant and cloudless day. It was good to see so much rainfall in a state that always needs more water, but now I'm sick of it and want to see sunlight again.

I am enrolled in "American Fiction to 1914," "The British Novel from 1914-1945," and a Taekwondo class. I was hoping to take an advanced English composition class as well, but the class is full and the professor will not be adding any more students. She apologized and said that this was because of all the cuts California universities have been facing.

If you are unaware, California is an expensive state to live in, but people aren't willing to pay higher taxes. So instead massive cuts are being made to things like higher education.

These cuts are real bogeymen for everyone at the university. While having lunch, I saw a flier for an upcoming poetry slam that is to express the frustration of staff and students. "Slam Poetry, not Students," was written in bold lettering across the top of the page. One of my professors even encouraged the class to mobilize against these cuts or else they will "destroy higher education."

Although I was disappointed that I didn't get the class I wanted, I don't believe that it's the end of higher education in California. Despite the recession and heavy times we've been going through, I'm certain that things will get better. Economies tend to bounce back after some stormy weather. Besides, as long as the student is willing, he or she will find a way to overcome whatever obstacles stand in their path; it makes earning that diploma all the sweeter.

Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic. Perhaps youthful naivety is clouding my judgment.

Nevertheless, I'd rather be optimistic because it's counterproductive to believe that the future only brings gloom and doom. Here's a song from one of my favorite heavy metal bands to further illustrate my point:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sucker Punched

So, I finally got to watch Suckerpunch. As promised, here's a little review of the film. Be warned, though, some spoilers are ahead.

Suckerpunch is essentially an escape story that is played out across three levels of consciousness: a mental institution (the real world), a brothel, and an extravagant fantasy realm where the heroine and her friends battle giant samurai, zombie soldiers, orcs, dragons, and robots while looking sexy and shooting lots of guns. To call this film a visual treat would be insufficient; it is a visual smorgasbord. However, the ridiculous, video game inspired action scenes are really just fantasies imagined by the heroine that act as visual metaphors. In reality, the girls use charm and seduction in order to outsmart their physically stronger oppressors and escape from the brothel/asylum.

One flaw of the movie is that it focuses too much on the two fantasy worlds and leaves us to guess what goes on in the real world. For example, the girls have to pilfer a cigarette lighter from one of the orderlies in the asylum to make their escape. In the brothel, the lighter is stolen from the visiting mayor while he is distracted by Babydoll's dancing. In the fantasy realm, the girls storm a castle, shoot up orcs with machine guns, kill a baby dragon and extract a pair of magic, fire-producing crystals from its innards. While the fantasy worlds are presented in lavish detail, we don't see how they actually got the lighter. I hope they didn't really cut the poor guy open and take out a vital organ or two.

In the fantasy realm, the girls are assisted by the "Wiseman," a kind of scruffy spirit guide who looks a whole lot like Jeremy Irons. I liked that character, but his background was never explained. He even shows up at the very end and helps one of the girls in the real world which made me go "what?" I would have liked to see more of him, but he was only there to give the girls their guns and point them in the right direction.

Although we see the girls as beautiful burlesque dancers, we must remember that in reality they are patients at a mental institute. Are the orderlies easily distracted by crazy girls in hospital gowns? Creepy. I think we are to assume that they cause distractions in more mundane ways that reveal less skin, but, sadly, it is not explained and we have to guess how they are able to to get away with stealing the things they need to escape.

Flaws aside, I still enjoyed watching this movie. My brothers and I did not buy our tickets expecting to see Oscar-worthy material. We expected the plot to be paper thin and the acting to be mediocre. We just wanted to check reality at the door and watch sexy girls shooting guns and we got what we payed for (so nyah, nyah, nyah, film critics). This is a film I will add to my list of guilty pleasures.

Some people say that watching Suckerpunch is like being sucker punched in a boxing match.

If that's the case, then I say, "thank you, ma'am, may I have another?"

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Can I get that toddler to go, please?"

After rolling dice and role playing for eight hours straight, my friends and I took a break to get dinner at a nearby Wendy's. The place was pretty busy and there was only one guy working the register. I didn't mind waiting because I know what it's like to try your hardest to serve all the customers at once when your coworkers are nowhere to be found.

What bothered me, though, was what one of the customers did.

Standing ahead of me was a family of three: a mother, a father, and a girl who was probably four or five years old and wearing pajamas. The mother, who was carrying the toddler, sat her daughter on the counter next to the register.

I couldn't stop staring. Was this even sanitary? The girl was practically in her underwear and her mother just plopped her down as if they were lounging about at home! But that wasn't all. After placing their order, the mother picked up her daughter and moved aside. After placing my order, I looked to my left and saw the little girl sitting on the condiments table. While the mother was engaged in conversation with the father, the little girl was pulling out handful after handful of napkins from the dispenser with one hand and handling the paper ketchup cups with the other. At one point the girl put her mouth on one of the cups then put it back.

Now, I am in no way condemning the child's actions. She was a toddler and toddlers do stuff like that. What bothered me was the mother who allowed this to happen. A restaurant is not a day care center. If the child is acting like that, then go through the drive-through or eat at home rather than risk getting other people sick.

Am I overreacting or is it perfectly fine to let a small child put their saliva in the same cup as my ketchup?

Friday, March 25, 2011

In the Navy (and other things)

A friend of mine is going to join the navy. He will be catching a flight to Chicago on Monday to start basic training and, once he's done, they'll have him building bombs on an aircraft carrier somewhere. I am happy that he's found a career and I hope he's ready for such an intense job. You see, this friend of mine has graduated from high school many years ago and has yet to find his calling in life. He went to college for a short time to study to be an electrician, but lost interest and dropped out. After a couple years of doddering about, he spent several weeks at some kind of job training camp in Sacramento, but didn't seem to find anything that excited him. I don't really blame the guy's lethargy because he's had some black spots in his past. His dad died several years ago from a heart attack and his mom became an emotional wreck. I haven't seen his mom in a long time, but judging on what I hear she seems to be doing okay. This Saturday my other friends and I will be hanging out with him one last time before he goes off for training. We'll probably spend the whole day playing Dark Heresy, Dungeons and Dragons, and Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I hope he will enjoy himself and I wish him luck in the navy.

This wouldn't be the first time I've seen a friend go off to the navy. Back in high school, I knew a guy who joined and worked on a submarine in the Pacific. His parents threw him a going-away party and invited lots of people, including myself, to come over and wish him well. This guy was known for being weird and wacky, so I decided to buy him an appropriate gift. I went to the local Safeway and purchased some cheap action figures from their "toy" aisle (and when I say "aisle" I mean one lonely rack sitting between the canned foods and frozen TV dinners). On the day of the party, I handed this friend the wrapped gifts and said, "since you're going into the navy, I bought you some sea men." He looked at me funny and slowly unwrapped the presents as if he were afraid to find what was inside. His reaction was precious. His face lit up as if he were a little kid on Christmas day and thanked me profusely. I was surprised, to say the least. It was a gag gift, but he immediately opened the boxes and started to play with the action figures and their little plastic guns. It was as if those toys were the best thing to happen to him all day.

This post would have been a review/critique of Suckerpunch, but since the weather insisted to be wet and miserable, my brothers and I stayed home. I spent a good portion of the day running around Azeroth as my dwarf shaman while the rain pelted my bedroom window. Dinner was fish sandwiches and french fries from Wendy's. Mmmm...fish.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just a little update

Since I've been gone for so long, I thought it would be appropriate to fill you in on what I've been up to over the last year instead of contributing to this digital diary.

My time has been consumed mostly by school work at Diablo Valley College and CSU East Bay, formerly known as Hayward. In the spring of '10 I became a journalist for the DVC newspaper and it was the most pleasurable and rewarding experience I've had since High School. I was able to write about many wonderful things, such as the ethnic storytelling festival, budget proposals for the English department, Finnish contemporary metal, and I even wrote about a local zombie walk for the paper's website (if you don't know what a zombie walk is then look it up. It's great fun if you're into hanging out with the living dead). Every time I picked up the latest copy of the Viking Herald and saw my name and words in print was like feeling electricity spiking up and down my spine. It was something else.

Looking back on my experience with the school newspaper, though, I find it strange that I had no problem writing for print, but was disgusted with my blog. Perhaps it is that "anything goes" nature of blogging that made me uneasy. With the paper I had editors who forced me to correct any mistakes I made and forced me to double and triple check all my sources before they sent the piece off to be printed. That kind of oversight made me feel more comfortable with my work because it was reviewed by others to make sure it wasn't total crap. Now that I'm back to the blog, though, I feel more relaxed without having words limits, deadlines, or needing permission to write about what I want. To be honest, I do miss the excitement that came with the job, the drafts, the revisions, and talking to people for my stories.

Although I enjoyed the work, the staff at the paper were...special. They were mostly kids right out of high school, so they walked and talked with this kind of youthful, know-it-all arrogance that got on my nerves sometimes. They were also best of friends with each other, but didn't seem to want to include me in their reindeer games. On the very last day of school, for instance, we had to clean the newsroom. One of the editors handed me some paper towels and windex and asked me to wipe down the computer desks. I did as he asked, but after a while I noticed that I was the only one cleaning. Everyone else was talking or playing flash games on the computers like it was social hour. I got so angry that I stopped cleaning and walked out, got in my car, and drove home. Did they aim to have me, the weird kid, do all the cleaning for them while they had a good time? Who knows. But despite their teenage shenanigans, they were still a talented group and I sincerely hope they do well in their future endeavors.

In the fall of the same year I transferred to East Bay and now I am about to start my third quarter. It's a nice campus that's not too different from DVC; it just comes with a bigger price tag. The school is particularly proud of their view and, I must admit, the view is pretty damn impressive. You can see San Francisco and most of the Bay Area from the campus. I'm looking forward to my next quarter. I only have to go two days a week, but most of my classes require a lot of reading and writing. For example, I'm taking "American Fiction to 1914," and I got seven books to read. Go ahead and call me weird, but I'm excited to read more Poe, Melville, Crane, and Chopin. The classics are awesome and better than most stuff on TV.

So that's all I have for now. Suckerpunch is coming out soon and I may watch it this weekend and I may write a review/critique. See you then.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oh, my God! What is that...thing? It's disgusting! It's hideous! It's...my blog?!?

Let's see, last post was about...2009? Wow. It's certainly been a while, hasn't it?

I suppose an explanation of some kind is in order.
Simply put, I lost interest in blogging. The joy of sharing my thoughts with the world turned into revulsion. I doubted anyone cared about what I had to say. I doubted I had anything interesting to say. I saw this as a total waste of time and energy. I hated myself for even starting one. So I ignored it, hoping that this embarrassing secret would just crawl off into a dark corner somewhere and die. There were times when I thought, "hey, I could write about that" or "this is worth writing about," but doubt was always there telling me: "no one wants to read this crap!" So out of disgust and self-loathing I ignored my blog as if it carried the plague.

The other day, though, I experienced a kind of reawakening. My older brother and I were hanging out with our friends and playing Arkham Horror. We took a break from fighting the nightmares of H.P. Lovecraft to eat out at Long John Silver's. We climbed into my car and followed our friend's van until I, the driver, made a marvelous navigational error and got ourselves lost. We parked at a McDonald's and, rather than braving the mean streets of Vallejo again, my brother and I agreed to eat there instead.

We talked about our crafts as we ate. Mike wants to make money from drawing pictures, but so far no luck. We discussed ways of improving this situation, such as social networking and having a more active blog. We concluded that in order to get the jobs and the attention, he has to let the world know he exists. I then thought about my own blog, that disgusting creature creeping around my room at night and leaving its droppings for me to step in, and realized it had been a long time since I even looked at it. As we drove home through the rain, something grew in me. It started off small, but grew and grew until it was like a colossal weight in my mind that briefly distracted me from the road.

That something was the desire to write in my blog again.

To quote Stephan Crane:

A man said to the universe:
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"the fact has not created in me
a sense of obligation."

This blog may just be another drop in the vast ocean of blogs already rolling in the internet, the very act of writing gives me new confidence. Even now as I type this at 1:53 a.m., I feel like I am rediscovering that joy of writing I had found nearly two years ago and it feels good. I just hope that doubt doesn't sink its jagged teeth into me again.

So, time for a new mission statement.

From now on I promise to do my best to write as often as I can in this blog; I promise to see this as a tool to enhance my craft as a writer rather than a waste of time and space; and finally, I promise to not doubt myself and to write whatever is on my mind as long as I keep it tasteful and does not provoke anyone to track me down and shoot me. That would be bad.