Thursday, April 25, 2013

Adventure #25: Adventures of a Flunking Honor Student

This will most likely be my last post on this blog. Last spring, after evaluating this blog, I felt that twenty-five adventures would be a satisfactory number, a good landmark to wrap up on.

Essence Artistry
I originally intended to end this blog by December when I was officially a college graduate, but that last semester was too hectic for me. So, I'm posting this piece today, the day of my convocation (which I am not attending and am fine with; I am busy with other things and do not want to travel to it). I'm ending for several reasons. For one, I am a graduate and will no longer occupationally be a formal student. I am entering the professional world. Further, while flunking as an honor student may be an entertaining and fitting tag for the time of experimentation and accelerated self-discovery, success is more tolerable in the workplace. Also, I do not know if I will have time for this blog as I embark on other life journeys.

You may have noticed that most years I added ten posts (funny enough, this was never planned), but last year I had seven posts. I did not feel like posting much during that period. A person incredibly dear to me passed away. Once that happened, I spent the rest of the year broken until I graduated. Now, in this new year, I find myself seeking connections in whatever ways possible (usually in music and fictional characters) and had often unashamedly shared them on Facebook. I seem to be building myself again, and recognizing these connections and facets of myself and my interests is an attempt to take all the emotional pieces of what's left and establish them into something functional. I sense a reformation into someone new, whomever that may be. I am excited to see what comes of it.

I have been grateful for this blog and for the release and expression it has been for the last two years (Interesting Note: Originally I named the blog "Confessions of a Flunking Honor Student," so my first "adventure" was titled "Confession #1;" by the time I posted my second "adventure," I felt that "adventure" would be better for the blog). It has been a useful pasttime for me to put down my thoughts in an organized, tangible fashion (the internet isn't exactly tangible but close enough).

I now see that I could have taken this blog in a totally different direction, one more suitable for its title (what a fine time to finally being seeing this!). I could have posted funny stories about flunking and disappointment. I shared some, but I see that would have been a fun blog. Regardless, I took the blog in a direction that makes my mother laugh, because she thinks most of my posts sound fairly scholarly and thought-provoking, despite the supposed "flunking" theme.

I have been able to express different facets of myself and share them with others. Thank you for all that have read, for the few who have left comments on them, and for the many who have discussed my posts with me in person. I am glad we have been able to grow together and discover ourselves through each other.

The things I have learned aren't limited to what I have written. I mostly have tried to include the meat of what I had to say to condence post length and to remain private that which would be inappropriate to delve too deeply into or reveal. I do not know if I will continue with another blog. I will just have to see where life takes me and what of it I want to share and in what form I'd like to share it. I will leave this blog open for people to look at, if they so desire. Who knows?--maybe I will come back to it if the time is right (maybe during graduate school!...if I attend).

Below, I have linked my adventures. If any titles interest you, feel free to check them out. After all, they have been published for your reading. There's no telling what you may learn about me or yourself or may be entertained by or may be introduced to from them:

Adventure #24: Living Internationally/We're All in This Together
Adventure #23: You've Been Sexed!
Adventure #22: "Both Sides Now"
Adventure #21: I Had a Younger Brother in Kindergarten, even if My Parents Didn't Know

Adventure #20: It'll All Work Out
Adventure #19: Being Brave
Adventure #18: Too Immature for Kindergarten
Adventure #17: Silver Linings Playbook

Adventure #16: I'm Like a Barbie--Small, Beautiful, and Easy to Undress
Adventure #15: eBay Selling My 5th Grade Crush
Adventure #14: Good [Time of Day]
Adventure #13: Meeting the "Pop Perfection" of Darren Hayes

Adventure #12: (Social) Rules: Throw Them Out
Adventure #11: My Art IS Me
Adventure #10: Hey, There, "Friend." What's the Definition of a Friend?
Adventure #9: Decision vs. Circumstance (or Control vs. Chaos)

Adventure #8: Nothin' But Nettie
Adventure #7: Notes on My Study on People's Interests
Adventure #6: Keepin' It Real
Adventure #5: Check It!

Adventure #4: The Little Prince Personality
Adventure #3: Arrested for BUI
Adventure #2: Yo, Ga...Or How to See God (and Elves) and Be Happy
Adventure #1: Dumbing Down for the World

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Adventure #24: Living Internationally/We're All in This Together

Petra, Jordan
I was born in Spain and spent my first three years of school in Saudi Arabia, during which time I traveled to about fifteen other countries. It's not as incredible an international life as other people I've met, but it is a lot more experience than most people I meet. I used to think living overseas did not have much influence on me, that I just came from a background similar to everyone else, but as I get to know other people deeper than the surface and watch my peers develop, I see that it has had an incredible impact on my views (and my siblings' views) of the world. (It was during some of my formulative years. Why shouldn't I notice residual influence?) Or, at least, I imagine living internationally had some effect. Perhaps, what I perceive as effect was really just shaped by other experience or is more from my personality.

Basically, I understand there is difference in the world: different people, different lifestyles, different needed occupations, different issues, differences in everything. These differences should be explored, celebrated, appreciated, and experienced. There is endless opportunity regardless of appearance, class, gender fulfillment, sex, demeanor, power, opinions, social standing, race, religion, creeds, and yada yada whatever else. In truth, whenever any of these are an issue, I feel like, "Honestly? This is a problem? We're not stepping forward? This is honestly something we have to address?" *exasperated sigh* I feel held back by it.

I also feel the same when people take unnecessary offense at things. From my own experience, it seems healthy to laugh lightly at yourself and at others (with sensitivity). We're here together. Why not enjoy each other and our differences? Why be so grim? That is, of course, NOT to say that we should take at the expense of others. But I don't see why so many people take offense at things without seeing the intention behind it. Most of time, (this is just my experience; can we just add a disclaimer that this is all from just my experience? Let's do) no harm is meant from jokes and misinformed practices are just that: misinformed. So why take offense and slap something with a crude or perverse sticker when you haven't even done your own footwork to find out what someone truly means behind it or why it may make you feel uncomfortable? And if they do mean offense, then move on from them and what happened, because it's not worth your attention, even to use your energy in being "offended!" Or, maybe be respectfully open and honest about why you find it offensive. Maybe they'll listen and be respectful in return. Maybe they'll understand and you'll make friends instead of enemies. (*Angelic "Ahhh!"*)  Who knew?! And now you don't have to be a naggy offended pussy pants. Okay, I'm bored of talking about the point of this paragraph (because, "Honestly? This is a problem...?" Catch my drift?).

Sydney Opera House, Australia
Now, besides these social issues that I find odd to even have existence, there is a great big world out there. Go get it. Go see it! It's beautiful! Don't be confined to whatever drudgery rules your life.! You're only here for only so long. Why not make every breath count? Yes, not everyone can afford to run off to a foreign land, but there are exciting things wherever you live to look at and experience. Tourists from all over the world come to see it. Why shouldn't you? It's in your own backyard. Live knowing the possibilities and potential there is in the world, even if your world feels small. Something that has LONG aggravated myself and my family is when people in our communities become so fixated on an issue that they lose the big picture and don't even realize they are doing it. They live in such a small world that they allow themselves to become distracted with jealousies, prejudices, and politics. There is not time for that! It's not helping anyone. It certainly is not healthy or uplifting to feel those things. Celebrate differences! Respect yourself without shame or apology or defense, and enjoy each other. We're all in this together.

We are all here on this planet together. We are a global community. There are people in every country hoping worthy things, dreaming worthy goals, joined in worthy causes--all living in the way they know how, in the way available to them. We're all just here together. So, we should learn from one another and be willing to stretch beyond our comfort zone. Why should we cheat ourselves from any life experience that we're unsure of? There's no way of telling what progress it may hand us that we did not foresee.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Adventure #23: You've Been Sexed!

This past year, I have been informally studying the differences between art created by men and women. And honestly, there is a difference significant enough that I have been able to blindly tell the sex of the screenwriter or playwright when I’m watching a film or play.

In general, the male focus deals with the actual problem or the intellect behind the problem, rather than the feelings about the problem or rather than having the main complication being the feelings behind a problem, as is the common focus for females. Also, the male presentation of a story to an audience is directly presented, rather than indirectly or passively as with a female storyteller. Males present what is happening, while females project feelings. So, personally, this is a bit of a disconnect for me, since I tend to be drawn to the emotions of female art, though I am still male in the manner of my own writings.

Consequently, I feel that stories are best created by the sex of the story’s protagonist. My first awakening to the gendering behind the creation of art came winter of last year when I watched the 1995 film adaption of Sense and Sensibility. I was completely taken by the story and this production particularly and realized that perhaps it was so good—held true to itself and stable in its own right of portrayal; we often see art as “good” when we recognize its truth or, at least, the truth we understand—because the script was written by a woman (actress/screenwriter Emma Thompson won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for the screenplay). Further, the original story was penned by romance novelist Jane Austen. Both of these mediums, the script and novel, are written by women about women. Who better than a woman to know what it’s like to be a woman?

Try as some men do, they can never really know enough to best capture the female experience. Such experience cannot be envisioned through observation. Men and women’s biology are completely different, making their life experience and bodily reactions and functions separate from each other. There are too many hormonal, physiological, etc. differences that make it impossible for someone of the opposite sex to completely know what it is like to be that sex, whether socially, emotionally, or whatnot. Hence, I conclude that men are best suited making male stories and women female stories (and then we all should enjoy and respect them).

Granted, occasionally, stories of an opposite sex protagonist than its creator can come across well, but never do they completely escape the lens of their own sex. This appears the case with the Harry Potter series. At first, I was stumped at how the portrayal of the boy wizard was so catching when it was created by Jo Rowling, a woman, but then I thought back on the narration and realized a motherly attitude towards the protagonist. The narration comes from the perspective of a mother. The motherliness, of course, is not forward, but I can sense the care and concern of a mother behind the way the story is told. Perhaps, this is one reason why the books have been so endearing to the masses. They can subconsciously sense that motherly concern for the character, his friends, and his story and adopt that view and care, or they may find a comfort in the motherly sensory that is there. It makes sense, though. Rowling is a mother herself and was a poverty-stricken single mother concerned about her child’s welfare when the story came to her. Had the books been written by a man, the story would have been laid out with more ego: Harry would have been made to appear more heroic, wowza-boy, which may have been accepted, but can you see it being accepted much if that attitude came from a woman? The reason for this: a female would have been feigning masculine ego towards a boy. She would have more luck passing a feminine ego, like that of a mother. This may be bothersome to many feminists, but think about it. Would you have really accepted a story portrayal that does not come from truth? Harry Potter would have lost its charm. It works with its given narration of motherly concern and appreciation.

Other exploration I’ve had was watching 13 Going on 30 for the first time a year ago. The story is honest to a womanly experience, but I recognized humor that seemed male originated. After the movie, I discovered it was written by a woman and a man, Cathy Yuspa and Josh Goldsmith. My guess is that a woman came up with much of the storyline/situation and a man came along to add humor.

The Other Guys’ script ran like two males bantering. Yes, the entire movie is two males bantering, but the script apparently was written the same, since it is by two males, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy. Even further, the humor is very male, especially with the masculinity-questioning aspects of the police captain working a second job at Bed, Bath, & Beyond and naïvely quoting lyrics from female R&B group TLC.

TV series Downton Abbey (written by Julian Fellowes) comes across as male with much of the story’s concern being about what is the problem and what they are going to do about it. Had it been written by a woman, the characters’ feelings and emotions about the problems and situations would be explored deeper and would become the show’s focus. As it is, for me, the show is very cut-and-dry and hard to get into for a while. Seemingly, the feelings aroused from the show are for the audience to impose and to fill-in-the-blank where feeling is not provided in the script.

When I watched Eat Pray Love, I could feel the story events running well and accurate in portrayal. Of course, the film is based on a woman’s autobiographical book. However, with this adapted script I felt everything presented to me directly. It was all laid out flat to me. It felt masculine but was done with sympathy towards the femininity of the story. My guess was that a feminine male wrote the script. Interestingly, it was directed and mostly written by Ryan Murphy, a homosexual male, and co-written by Jennifer Salt. I have not studied an occurrence like this beyond this example, but it suggests an idea that sexual orientation does not alter the sexed focus of the art, understandably, since the person is already male or female and are subject to that biological experience and function.

In the play Holiday by Philip Barry there are possible hints of Johnny being in love with Linda though he is engaged to her sister Julia, but these hints can all be passed as common decencies and are not enough to really catch the audience’s attention. It is not clear until Johnny and Linda are left alone and are led to a kiss. A female creator would have made the focus Johnny’s feelings behind the complication of where he puts his love, while the actual story is the struggle of where he puts his love, making the hints escapable. The female is more indirect, while the male is more defined.

I am sure many of these kind of qualities cross over into other artful creations. There are definitely many more aspects and personality that go into the creation of a story besides one’s sex, especially modernly when gender lines are blurred. But it is certainly telling if it can be deciphered from just perusing the manner in which something is written. It is something for artists to consider when they are creating and probably for audiences to look for in art and in their own lives of sex identity and gender identity.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Adventure #22: "Both Sides Now"

In mid-January, something magical happened. I discovered the song “Both Sides Now,” penned by the legendary Joni Mitchell. I came across it while exploring the music of Carly Rae Jepsen, who covers it on her EP Curiosity. I can’t remember when such lyrics have hit me so incredibly, as I have found nearly every cover striking.
Of course, I’m not the only one to have such an impacted experience from the song. The song's themes are universal through many different phases of life, making it connectable for legions of people. To end each chorus with, "I really don't know clouds/love/life at all," reaffirms the natural, stirring fear of what is unknown and unsure. Its destructuring is striking to the listener, as they recognize the misalignment of illusion and reality. My own mother had surreal moments as she watched me obsess over the song. She, too, is deeply touched every time she hears it, but her original craze dates back to when Judy Collins released the first commercial record of it in 1967 (her recording went on to win the Best Folk Recording Grammy). Joni Mitchell released her own version of the song soon after it was a hit for Judy and a seemingly endless list of covers by touched artists followed.
When I discovered this incredible song, I felt astonished that something so wonderful had been kept from me like a secret. And when I realized how many people had covered it, I felt really ignorant for having just found it. (But, come to think of it, I'm not so sure it would have hit me so hard had I discovered it earlier than I did. It was actually PERFECT timing for when I came across it. Had I known it earlier, I would have liked it but not found it so striking, I think.) Joni’s re-recording of her song in 2000 earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Vocal Pop Performance. I prefer her original 1969 recording, however. All covers are remarkable, but besides Judy and Carly’s versions, I especially like versions by:
           -Mindy Gledhill                    -Sharon Cuneta
           -Melanie C                          -Unni Wilhemsen
           -Pat Martino                        -The Swingle Singers
           -Hayley Westenra                -The Idea of North
Susan Boyle, Harpers Bizarre, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, and Anne Murray also do notable renditions.
Perhaps, it was the limiting winter snow that made me find even the first verse applicable. Still, I feel like I’ve journeyed the entire song and that it expresses incredibly personal truths in its gorgeous and fitting (octave and a half) melody. Most times, when I sing the song to myself, I weep through the second and third verses. I have been there through each lyric. It is a song of my heart.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Adventure #21: I Had a Younger Brother in Kindergarten, even if My Parents Didn’t Know

I have always had an active imagination and have enjoyed creating stories, even in Kindergarten, apparently. Recently, I remembered a conversation in Kindergarten when the French teacher’s aide sat me down to ask what I had drawn and written in my journal:

Me: I said, “I play games with Davíd and my little brother.”
Aide: Is David your older brother?
Me: His name is Davíd.
Aide: Oh, sorry. Is Davíd your older brother?
Me: Yes.
Aide: And you have a younger brother and have lots of fun with him?
Me: (Looking away) …Yes.
Aide: Babies can be so much fun, can’t they?
Me: …Yes.
Aide: How old is he?
Me: …A baby.
Aide: Is he eighteen months?
Me: …Yes.
Aide: Do his diapers stink?
Me: He doesn’t wear diapers, but I wish he did, then I could give him a bottle and change his diaper.
Aide: I think your mommy would change him.
Me: No, I would want to change him.
Aide: …Okay. What kind of games do you like to play with him?
Me: Stuffed animals. Hi-Ho Cheerio. Knockout. Mouse Trap.
Aide: You play all these with your younger brother?
Me: And with Davíd, sometimes.
Aide: …What’s your younger brother’s name?

This continued for a while. Eventually, there was an open house with our parents, and my teacher became so excited to see my parents. They had a conversation like this:

Teacher: Misses Inman, Jonathan’s mother! It’s so good to finally meet you. Where is your baby?
Mom: …My baby?
Sleep Well Little Friend wasn't a Cabbage Patch Kid, but he was similar to this
Teacher: Jonathan writes all the time about the fun he has with his little brother.
Mom: …He does?
Teacher: Yes, so I’m surprised to see him not with you tonight.
Mom: He’s never had a little brother.
Teacher: Really? Are you sure?
Mom: Uh, yeah!
Teacher: Well, of course you would be.
Mom: What kind of things does he do with this “little brother?”
Teacher: Well, they play games together.
Mom: (Laughing) That’s his doll!
Teacher: What?
Mom: He is talking about his doll. He has a little boy doll he’s named Sleep Well Little Friend. He must have been writing his doll as his little brother.

She was right. I always knew that the little boy in the pictures I was drawing was my doll, but I thought I would try to make others believe I had a younger brother, because I wanted one.