April 2003 Archives
It's pouring outside again. A quiet evening at home, reflecting on writing.
When I was in my creative writing class a few months ago, the teacher went around and asked us all why we were taking the class. One student there, a junior in high school said that "they didn't teach anything interesting in his english class there and he was bored, but he liked writing." As it turns out, our first assignment was to write a poem. Each poem was photocopied and read in class the following week. That student's poem was filled with so many grammatical and spelling errors that it was near impossible to make sense. I'm sorry, but at 17 years of age, if you're boasting about how bored you are of school, you should at least know the difference between there, they're and their, and the difference between a plural s and an apostrophe s.
Teaching a student how to write is one of the most difficult tasks a teacher has to face. I know I wouldn't be the writer I am today were it not for my high school freshman english teacher really drilling into me how to write a critical essay. I also have to give credit to having read thousands of books while I was a child. I don't think people realize just how creative a child is, and just how fertile their imagination is. Writing ability is very closely linked to reading ability -- I've found through the students I teach that often if they don't read well, they don't write well either. Furthermore, if they don't read well, this not only affects their english grades, but their grades in science and history as well.
When I was in fifth grade, the school had a book fair, but not the traditional kind where Scholastic trucks in thousands of books to purchase, but rather one where students of every grade level went through the process of writing and publishing their own book. Most books were thin with pictures on every page, and some were copies of other books found in the library with a few details changed. You could always tell what books the teacher was reading in class was because you'd often find five or six books with different characters going through the same actions. Even at that age, I felt a great disappointment in reading some of those books, knowing that the authors had obviously been lazy about doing the assignment. Every free moment I had was spent at the book fair, reading all the books there systematically, moving from table to table, until I was done. Some books, I liked the pictures more than the story, while others were the opposite. By the end of the book fair, I had so many ideas about the next book I would write for the book fair (which was a year away) that I just couldn't wait, so I went home and made the next book by myself. I ended up entering that story I wrote in a contest for an astronomy magazine. I felt disappointed that I didn't win (or even place), but reading the winning stories just made me realize just how far I had to go before I would be able to write at that level.
I think the reason most teachers don't have more intensive writing assignments is that they simply don't have the time to grade the paper, tell the student individually what they did wrong, how they can change it, and then have them re-write the paper. That was the technique used on us as freshmen in high school in Ciz's class, and it worked because by the end of the year, everyone in class had improved their writing. But, just as a good teacher can improve a student's skill in writing, bad teachers can degrade a student's writing. How? By letting them get away with laziness.
The problems with writing will just get worse. Television and Video games dominate childrens' lives, and now that they've grown up with it, it has become habit to them to come home, plop on the couch and veg for hours in front of the boob tube. Just take away their precious and watch them change from zoned out zombie children to beast children, screaming for the return of their precious. I watch more TV as an adult than I did as a child, and in many ways, it worries me that I find myself spending more and more hours in front of the soul sucking device. But if that's me, I have to wonder to myself, how many hours will the children of today spend in front of a screen when they become my age?
So tired. Didn't think this week's Alias was that great. It was clearly a set-up episode for next week's two hour season finale. I don't like the whole way that they've been starting with a cliffhanger and then flashing back to (in this case) 72 hours earlier. The reason I don't like it is this: it takes a lot of the suspense out of it and breaks the flow of the story. Everyone on the show has a love interest now, except for Weiss... and Marshall is seeing Carrie Bowman (the actress played Meghan in Felicity, who incidentally was married to Agent Weiss' character Sean). Funny to see David Carradine playing a monk again (he was the same in the old series Kung Fu). Ever since Syd destroyed SD-6, the CIA missions haven't been very exciting... they just aren't as cool as the old double agent episodes.
It's raining hard outside. I can hear the water trickling down all the ledges and overhangs and dripping onto the cold cement. It's been a long time since I've been able to walk through the rain, but I did earlier today, when I was going out to buy food to make dinner with. The sound of falling rain is always pleasant to my ears.
New episode of Alias tonight!
After church today, we went down to Jack London Square for lunch at Scott's Seafood. Good stuff, and their brunch entree comes with desert - choice of chocolate mousse (why is it pronounced like moose and not like mouse?) or lemon sorbet. I had the sorbet, and everyone else had the mousse, but someone said it tasted like jello chocolate pudding, which got me thinking... if you got the jello pudding and put it in a pastry tube and squeezed it out into a fancy glass, would it taste like mousse?
I just finished watching Rurouni Kenshin Episode 95 followed by the RK OVA, and now I'm way the hell depressed. I should just put myself out of my misery by following it up with End of Evangelion or Grave of the Fireflies... Everything I've got in the library is just really really ... sad. I need more happy anime. It's just that after spending countless hours watching RK, you really don't want the series to end and if they had left it open ended, one could always believe in a sequel series. I guess that's my way of saying that if you actually watch all 95 episodes of the RK TV series, stop there, and read the manga ending found in the Kenshin Kaden Artbook.
It's funny but the two quotes below from yesterday's entry is actually rather appropriate for RK.
"Forgiving those who hurt us is the key to personal peace." -- G. Weatherly
"If there is to be any peace it will come through being, not having." -- Henry Miller
Highway related deaths are up. Rollover deaths account for about a quarter of the deaths, while not wearing seatbelts accounted for 59 percent of the deaths. Unbelted SUV fatalities is 72 percent. So basically, if you drive a SUV, buckle up.
Just because it's been sent to me by 3 different people this past week:an UK commercial for the European Honda Accord Wagon. In America, such a vehicle would be called the Acura TSX Wagon. Yes, in case you didn't know, the new sports sedan from Acura meant to compete with the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes C-Class is really just the European version of Honda Accord. What's truly funny is all the car reviewers know this, so they inevitably mention this fact in their reviews. Call me crazy, but I don't see them selling very many of these cars, given that for the price, one can buy almost two Honda Accords.
A kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.
A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself.
The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.
The truly righteous man attains life, but he who pursues evil goes to his death.
Proverbs 11:16-19 (NIV)
More often than not, the answer I'm looking for is right in front of me.
Today, I finally saw Better Luck Tomorrow. Unfortunately, BLT suffers from a problem that plagues many first-time films: lack of plot. You never get the sense that the characters are going anywhere, and many of the scenes are there simply for the shock value. It's not a bad film, it's just that it meanders about and leaves a somewhat unsatisfied feeling at the end.
Anime Update: Here's what I've been watching this week. In a way, writing these synopses sorta reminds me of my early days at Cal-Animage. Although it's sad to say, I don't think I've gotten any better at writing them. Another CAA alum seems to be stirring up some trouble.
I'm currently wading through a HK pirate subtitled version of this show. It features some great literal translations such as calling every reference to a ship, mobile suit and fighter a "boat". I especially love their translation of the name "Artemis" as "The Moon Goddess" and "Archangel" as "Angel Trumbone". Aside from the translation problems, It's probably the best Gundam series to date with a good mix of story, excellent animation quality and great mech designs. (Most Gundam series are unbalanced in that one or more of those three qualities is weak).
This is a romantic comedy in the same style of Ranma, Love Hina, Ai Yori Aoshi, Tenchi Muyo!. Actually, the comparison with Tenchi is probably the closest, because there's sort of this sci-fi backstory, but the setting is rather modern. Mahoro is a combat android, and in recognition of her services in defending the earth from alien invaders, she's been given the choice of either remaining in combat duty, in which her lifespan will expire in 37 days or to live out her remaining days as a civilian for a little bit over a year. Mahoro chooses the civilian life, being a maid to Suguru, a 14 year old orphan. Each episode ends with a countdown of days until Mahoro will stop functioning, along with some poetry read by one of the characters in the show. In one of the episodes, the dog Guri barks his little poem (very much like the dog barking ending theme of Excel Saga). The ending theme (Mahoro de Mambo) is especially catchy. While being very fun to watch, there are a number of sexual jokes, so I would not say that this is a series for everyone.
What happens when they start making Personal Computers which look like humans? How will life change? Those seem to be the questions asked and answered by CLAMP (creators of Magical Knights Rayearth, X, Tokyo Babylon, Angelic Layer) in this series. While not giving too much away, the basic premise is that Hideki finds a PersoCom that someone has thrown away, the only problem being that Hideki knows nothing about PersoComs or Chi, the PersoCom he finds. Of course, Hideki's friend Minoru alludes to the fact that Chi may be linked to the mysterious Chobits.
Don't believe the propaganda that Apple wants you to believe that Macs don't crash. They do crash, and often at the most frustrating times. They don't call it a crash though. They simply say that an "unexpected error has occurred.".
A really good episode of Smallville tonight. Can't say too much about it, (no spoilers for those who haven't seen it yet) but I thought it was one of the better written episodes of the season.
Happy Earth Day.
I was making dinner when it occurred to me that the phrase "cut through like a hot knife through butter" must be fairly modern in origin. My reasoning being that were it an old phrase, existing before refridgeration, the phrase would make no sense whatsoever, since butter at room temperature is fairly soft, and hot knives would pass only a little bit more quickly through butter than a cold knife. But, butter coming from a refridgerator like mine (which has been known to freeze sodas on occasion) is rock hard, and a hot knife (heated by hot water) cuts through it (thankfully) quite quickly.
One of my co-workers proposed this past weekend to his girlfriend of three years. He and I share the same birthday and the same birthyear, which makes him the same age as me, give or take a few hours. Anyways, he is ready for marriage, I am so not. It's not that I wouldn't be a good husband or a good father, it's just that, well, I'm simply not ready for it. And while there are certainly plenty of pros and cons to being married, it's a lifestyle that I just can't handle yet.
I've lived my life for 28 years, and in alot of ways, I'm still trying to figure out who I really am. A person isn't complete until they find the other part of themselves, and the other part can only be found in the presence of another person. Who I am when I'm around people is different from the person I am when I am alone. Who I am when I'm with a group of people is quite different from who I am when I'm amongst friends. All these different facets of my personality. Sometimes fluid, sometimes hard, constantly changing.
Shrek: "Ogres are like onions."
Donkey: "They stink?"
Shrek: "Yes... No!"
Donkey: "They make you cry?"
Donkey: "Oh... you leave them out in the sun, they get all brown and start spoutin' little white hairs."
Shrek: "No! Layers! Ogres have layers! You get it? We both have layers!"
Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody likes onions. You know what everybody likes? Parfaits."
From the movie Shrek
Now that I think about it, a lot of things are like ogres and onions. Think about things that make you cry, things that have layers that not everyone likes...
Finally sat down this past weekend and watched all the anime that's been piling up for the last few months.
I, My, Me: Strawberry Eggs:
I first heard about this series last year at FanimeCon during a workshop on voice acting. We had the voice actor and the voice director there having members of the audience try their hand at being the dubbed voices for the characters. Later on, at the con during the Pioneer panel, they showed a short 10-minute clip of the series. It made me laugh enough to pick up the DVD when it was finally released in September of last year. It's about a teacher who manages to to make an impact on the students' lives at the school. (Teacher based anime seems to be quite popular at the moment). It is a comedy, though, so some suspension of disbelief is required. Unlike most anime series, this one actually has an end.
You're Under Arrest - TV series, Season One:
I actually started watching this last week. This is an action-comedy series about a police precinct (think Lethal Weapon post-Joe Pesci). The creator of the series is Kosuke Fujishima, Who also created "Ah! My Goddess" and "eX-Drivers", which means a lot of detail is given to the background in being very realistic and very accurate (particularly with things mechanical). It's a pretty old series, so it's about time it was brought over.
This is a science fiction drama about a boy and his robot. There's many comparisons to the Evangelion series, mainly because of it's similarity in the core of the story (the reluctant boy who becomes the pilot of a robot) and the background music (which has the same style of piano work as Eva). While I wasn't immediately enthralled with the series initially, after watching a few episodes the story drew me in, and now I can't wait to see more of this series. The art style of the characters is much more realistic looking than most anime, quite reminiscent of Lain or Hellsing.
Noir, Vol. 2:
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this series before. It's about two female assasins trying to discover their past. In the second DVD, we see a lot more character development of both Mirelle and Kirika. The pace of the show still feels a little on the slow side but that's pretty typical of most 26-episode anime.
I didn't get to Spirited Away this weekend, but when I do, I'll make a note of all the cultural references and try to explain... although I'm fairly sure someone on the net has probably already done it.
Happy Easter everyone.
It's hard to balance needs and wants sometimes... there always seems to be something to buy, that would make life so much better... but that's all a trick of marketing and commercials. There is nothing magical or special about acquiring more stuff. My place is a mix of spartan and excess... spartan in the whole furniture type things but vast excess of CDs, DVDs, books and things techie (although I tell myself that money spent on technology is ultimately wasted as new upgrades are released constantly).
My sister and I talked last night. She turned 24 a few days ago, and she was complaining to me that she was old. You're only as old as you feel. Some days I feel like I'm 28 going on 45, others I feel like I'm 28 going on 16... It just depends what I'm dealing with. Yesterday I was dealing with my car insurance company since they raised my rates again. I dropped a bunch of stuff off my policy and ended up saving almost $200 dollars. Insurance companies are horrible at protecting your property, so why pay more than you need to? Insurance companies are such a scam... if you really sit down and think about it, they are nothing more than a legalized protection racket. You pay them, for knowing that you will be "protected" if something "bad" should happen.
Alias is coming to DVD later this year. Three Studio Ghibli films were released on DVD this past Tuesday (Castle in the Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service and the Academy Award Winning Spirited Away).
So I've cooked for the last two days in a row, nothing fancy, but it's different from eating out all the time. I go to the supermarket so seldomly that it always shocks me seeing the prices of certain groceries.
I got a wedding invitation in the mail today. Two of my co-workers are getting married to each other. They're really wonderful people and have been together for as long as I've known them, so I'm sure they'll be very happy together. Looks like I'll be shopping for a new suit soon.
For those of you into comics, here's a List of Eisner Awards Nominees. I usually try to pick up the winners of the Eisners, since I'm too lazy to sort through the massive amounts of comics that seem to be released each month. Strangers in Paradise is nominated for Best Continuing Series (again), which I find really weird, because the past year's storyline I felt, was just really random...
There's this film I want to see called Better Luck Tomorrow. It's only being shown in small independent style theaters, and it's been getting really great reviews. It's an Asian-American film that attempts to juggle a lot of subjects into a great movie, and if the initial reviews of the film are any indication, it manages to do so.
It's been an on-again, off-again rainy day today, so I took the time to catch up on all the books and movies that I just haven't been able to read or watch. As always, I found inspiration and wisdom in them.
I bought a case of Dasani water because it was on sale, but on the label of the bottles is this: "DASANI is filtered for purity, using state of the art treatment by reverse osmosis and enhanced with minerals for a pure, fresh taste. DASANI is water - pure and essential." Reverse osmosis is going from high concentration of solute to low concentration of solute, so I guess Dasani is the low concentration stuff which they then apply osmosis to enhance it with minerals... what's scary is they don't mention on the bottle anywhere what those minerals are... Since it's from the Coca-Cola company, I suspect there's something in there that makes you more thirsty... unlike some of the other water bottles I have lying about the apartment, it doesn't say "Sodium Free" anywhere... I'm sure someday, on a bottled water, we'll see something like "Natural Water, naturally created by combining 2 Hydrogen with 1 Oxygen"...
Daylight savings is totally messing with me. I hope I adjust soon. Too much sleep is better than too little I suppose.
I've been in a pissy mood all weekend. Not sure why. Probably has to do with the sleep (or lack of it) that I've been getting. It's springtime, but it sure feels like winter up here. It's strange, my phone will adjust on the different time zones (it automatically switched to Central time while I was in Chicago, and switched back to Pacific when I came back to SF) but it doesn't seem to realize that time skipped ahead and we lost an hour today.
I'm in awe of the number of comments from last week. I was reading the paper last week, and Robert Woodward (the guy who broke Watergate) had spoken in Palo Alto. He wrote a new book, called "Bush at War", and in it, he said that when Bush was coming into the White House, the director of the CIA said basically that he should keep any eye on Osama Bin Laden, chemical weapons in Iraq and China, and that Bush's failure to take the warning about Osama which led to 9-11 is what is motivating Bush to take action against Iraq. I'll try and pick up a copy of the book the next time I'm at the bookstore.
SARS scares the beejeezus out of me. It's one of those times I wish I didn't have a background in biology. Of course, to add more fear is that I was just at the airport a few weeks ago, and up until this week they didn't have the authority to detain anyone who might have had it. Did you ever see the movie Outbreak? They have a scene there where some guy goes to the movie theater and sneezes, and you see someone else breathe in the virus. And that's exactly how this thing gets around. Of course, just like in the movie, this thing is being spread around by air travelers. Strange and scary how movies can be propehtic that way.
I hate April 1st. My main source of information is the internet, and today the net is filled with so much misinformation in the name of good humor that it's impossible to trust anything. I still haven't done my taxes yet. I forgot all about them after my trip to Chicago. Guess I'll work on it either today or tomorrow night. I really hate doing them. I guess I could get them done by someone, but I've always done them myself. It's not very hard, it's just long and tedious to do. Kind of like homework that if done right results in getting money back. I always get a refund from the US and end up owing state. Don't ask me how that works, it's just the way it is. The thing that reminded me about the taxes was the fact that our royalty bonus checks came yesterday and the government stole half my money. I think I'd feel better about it if I had some say in where the money from my taxes went -- I'd keep my money away from funding the military and probably put it all into things like education, the space program and environmental protection. Of course, the problem is that there are enough people out there who wouldn't know or care about where to put their contributions.
Here's an interesting forward I received yesterday:
If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look
something like the following:
There would be:
14 from the Western Hemisphere, north and south
52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be non-white
30 would be white
70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian
89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual
6 people would possess 59% of the world's wealth and all 6 would be from the United States
80 would live in sub-standard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 would own a computer
When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding and education become glaringly apparent.
The following is also something to ponder: If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.