Life is Good

/sigh

Edit: Initially, I failed to credit the source of this photograph.  Amid the raucous calls for attribution, this error has been fixed.  It behooves me to specify that David H. Sorrell—of Michael’s Nervous fame—submitted the above photograph.  Also, for poseterity’s sake, the child’s cuteness—for the record—shall be attributed to his father and mother’s genes.  No animals were harmed in the production of this photograph.  All rights reserved.

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My Best Friend Jesus

As a child, I attended a Christian school.  We wore maroon sweaters, clip-on ties, and corduroy navy slacks.  I sang in the choir, and performed in dramatic productions of Biblically-themed stories.  Thinking back, I find it funny that my Buddhist parents would send their only child to a Christian school.  We never talked about religion.

Whenever it feels safe to joke about Christianity, whenever I’m in the company of people who will probably laugh at my experience with Jesus, I tell the story handed down to me by my sister.  If you know me, you know this story.  If you don’t, here it is.

My sister picked me up from kindergarten one day.  I have memories of my father picking me up, but in this case, it was my sister.  You see, she’s old enough to be my mother.  And, in many ways, she raised me like she was my mother.  She taught me how to place a fork and knife down on a plate to signal that I was done with my food at a restaurant.  She taught me how to properly clean a bathroom so that dust wouldn’t accumulate on the light switches.  She taught me that being “only” a half-sister or half-brother was bullshit, and that it didn’t matter one bit that we had different fathers.

My undeveloped hippocampus at age five prevents me from recalling specific details, but I’m pretty sure she pulled up in her tan Firebird.  Pretty cool.  My face probably lit up as I spotted my sister—flowing dark brown hair and long legs waited for me in the school lobby.  I ran out to hug her, and we walked out to the sleek machine shimmering in the parking lot sun.

The Firebird had heavy doors.  Cars don’t have doors like this anymore.  This door, to a five year old, was like pulling shut a bank vault.  My little muscles tensed as I yanked on the handle as hard as I could.  The door slammed shut with a thunk, and my sister surely rolled her eyes.  “You don’t have to slam the door, sweety,” she said in a soothingly serious tone.

“Okay,” I said, wondering what a thirty pound asian kid is supposed to do.

Pulling out of the driveway, turning right, down the hill, my sister asked the questions you always ask a child that you just picked up from school.  “How was school?”

“Good.”  At the time, I wasn’t so adept at qualifying my experiences.

“Did you learn a lot?” she asked.

“Yes.”  Yes, I learned a lot.  I learned that I liked Lincoln Logs.  I learned that recess was fun.  I learned that you can cut a perfect circle out of your slice of processed cheese with the bottom of a paper Dixie cup and put it on your forehead to make a big round yellow eye.  I learned that some kids like to eat paste.  I didn’t tell her about what I learned.

“Do you have a lot of friends?”

“Yes.”

“Like who?”

“Well, there’s David H.”  We peed in the same toilet. We tried to top each other’s Lego spaceships.  Sounds friendly to me.

“Oh, yeah, I know him,” she said.  Outside my window, the cars slowly slid backwards.  Signs glided past, and beyond them, the hills turned blue as they disappeared beyond the horizon.

“Well, do you have a best friend?”

“Yes.”

“What’s his name?”

“Jesus.”

This is the punchline.  The story ends, and people laugh.  They imagine a tiny Japanese boy, hands clasped, looking up to the sky.  They see him intently muttering five year-old prayers about Transformers.  They see all the hopes of naïveté channeled through the small, slanted eyes, looking up at nothing but the blue, gaseous mix of chemical elements, hoping that his parents will laugh together tonight.  Hoping that his father puts on Be-Bop-A-Lula on the turntable.  Hoping that he could listen to his mother’s churning stomach.  Hoping that the Sun won’t become a red giant overnight, and that the G.I. Joes, obediently lined up next to his bed will be there, standing at attention,  when he wakes up the next morning.

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Digital Soma

It’s been a while.  Semester’s done.  Natural disasters continue to try to wipe the plague of humanity off of the earth.  The flapping mouths spew.  My son crawls—albeit, very poorly.

I had an assignment this past month in my Media and Society course:

“To which social media do you belong? (e.g. Facebook, Linked-In, etc.)  How often do you use social media? For what purpose(s) do you use social media?  How many “friends” or “contacts” do you have on each of the social media sites to which you belong? Do you still use email? Why or why not? Since you are at an age at which you remember the world before My Space/Facebook, what do such media sites add to your life? What do they detract from your life? What sense do you make of them?  Please write a paper of 3-5 pages that addresses these questions.  The paper is due in class on May 3rd.”

So, I wrote.  Usually, these types of assignments make me yawn, and I type a formulaic response.  I joke with a friend that the key is to use as many polysyllabic words as you can in each paper.  Then, professors and grad students can hear their academia echoed back to them, relishing in the comfort of the abstract.  (Just kidding, Dr. Blosser and Aymen.)

But in this case, I took a different approach.  I chose to write the first bits of garbage that came up from the refuse of my head.  And there was a lot.  So, without further qualification, I present to you my paper:

Digital Soma

          Social media beckoned in the distance, waving its tendrils and flashing html like some disco-ball mirrored machine.  I recoiled at the flocking herds, gathering at the well of new technology.  MySpace took off in popularity, and I refused to partake.  It felt narcissistic and cliquey.  I imagined a world of digitally connected, fleshy bodies surrounded by technological cocoons, packed tightly in a gargantuan metal apparatus housing the world’s population—only capable of interaction through the 1’s and 0’s streaming through the conduit, completely unaware of the conscious being breathing next to them.  I imagined a dystopian future where the mind supplanted the body, and the all-mighty digital network attended to every psychological need with computerized efficiency.  The body would sustain through nutrients pumped through pipes, emptying into the polycarbonate sarcophagi housing the flesh and bone mechanisms fueling the brain within.  To me, the whole idea of social media evoked images of “The Matrix,”  and “Brave New World.”  So, in defense of my own fears and resistance to a societal norm gathering steam within a new social paradigm, I created a narrative that would suit my rejection of social media.  I am homo sapiens, the result of a harsh, deterministic, and ancient process.   I will not evolve.

However, as the world embraced the new evolution in human interconnectedness, curiosity crept into the gray matter residing in my evolved cranial cavity.  I watched as those around me discussed the perceived benefits of social networking.  Facebook sprang up.  Twitter was soon to follow.  “Friending” and “following” became the new hello.  One by one, I witnessed those close to me fall prey to the mutated RNA of social media.  I started to question my reasons for not being “social.”

I have never been one to be comfortable as an outlier.  I took solace as a molecule surrounded by many other molecules occupying the amorphous cloud perched atop the bell curve .  I enjoyed the comfort of faceless anonymity.  I preferred the center of the swirling globe of fish, as lurking danger circled the school.  I embraced the warmth of acceptance.  To be singled out equalled death.  To be alone meant the painful prospect of self-examination.  But, I found myself a single, conspicuous point on the graph, far away from the median, inviting scrutiny.  So, I grabbed my effects, and journeyed up the bell curve slope.

In my expedition to the middle, Facebook loomed large on the horizon.  I created my profile.  I started the bizarre ritual of requesting friendship from those whom I had already met.  I navigated the blue and white pages, finding my bearings within the streamlined digital switchboard.  I looked out over the territory, seeing an establishment of predetermined, acceptable methods of interaction.  I wrote on a wall.  I poked someone.  I relayed my status.  “Jeff is…”  What I typed  was surely lifeless prose, tinged with the self-effacing and self-conscious ethos of the fearful and cautious.  My first experience with social media felt painless enough.  My digital self manifested itself over time, gaining literacy in the methods of social networking, piecing itself together like a slow, controlled demolition in reverse.

Today, my digital edifice, part Gaudi’s curved and tiled rooftops, part slippery Frank Lloyed Wright sheen, and part strip-mall splendor, teeters and writhes in the online sun.  It continues to evolve.  Abandoned concrete cubes of detritus, electric offices of perpetual distraction, and locked iron gates populate the amalgam of my online self expression.  Looking up, I see the colossus for what it is: my projection of myself, as I see fit to print and display for others to see and judge.  The false Aesopian reflection beckons as my grip loosens on the bone of reality.

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Kabuto

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My son’s new helmet from Japan. Not sure what it means, but it’s shiny, regal, and cute.

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RandomAntihistamineRamble

The pink allergy pill starts to kick in after my cup of coffee.  I can feel it like a tiny black hole in my stomach, a singularity, pulling me inward.  My backspace key gets extra work.  At least I stopped sneezing. Allergies in mid-February?  Mother Earth must be angry with me.

Radio promoting Matt Damon’s movie.  You can be an extra.  You already are an extra.  Just a blur in the frame, as the camera trucks past you, following the star.

More rain today. Perfect homework weather.

“Free list of foreclosures available.  Every house must be sold.  Act now. Banks are very motivated.  Listeners with last names A-M, call now; all others call tomorrow.”  Heard this on the radio.

Forget it.  Post finished .  Just some more 1’s and 0’s floated out to you.  My gravity pulls my hands in, as I collapse on myself, absorbing the light, and making a dent in the galaxy.

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My Guitar

Garageband sketch of a new song, done totally on my beat up, cheap acoustic.  I used the laptop mic, so you can hear other stuff.  Just a way to avoid doing homework/reading.  I tried writing a post about buying my guitar way back when, but it was terrible.  So, here’s a photo and music instead.

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Walk Like an Egyptian

Not sure what to post today.  My son sleeps in his crib.  His arms raised up on either side of his head, dreaming of . . . well who knows.  What do you think of when your brain is still developing?

The protests in Egypt come through the radio.  The concussion bombs pop, interrupting the correspondent’s voice.  You can hear the sound of metal barricades crashing to the ground.  I close my eyes and I can smell the tear gas.  The Wikileaks cables scroll down through my Twitter app.  The Egyptian government blocks its citizen’s access to the internet, thousands of voices cut off, the monolithic silence cracking like a dam.

I imagine the people, eyes burning, covering their mouths, running wild and blind through the streets toward the main square.  Husbands,  brothers, aunts, and uncles.  The synchronized line of plastic barricades and the gas-masked officers holding them, pushing against the unified will of hundreds.  An officer in doubt, staring through the scratched plastic into the eyes of indignation.  A trampled body crooked on the curb.  An empty canister.  The swell in the distance, above the horizon, crashing through the breakers and losing momentum in the calm of the harbor.

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