dal niente

Month: June, 2007

Enter the Dragon Fish

I almost fogot about this anime that I watched about a year ago, until Azriha posted up about getting the new Wii game for it.

Go and check out this video– I’ve linked part 1, but from there, you can watch all the parts that make up one of the series OAVs about Kimura, which is my favorite singlt standalone anime OAV of all time.

There are certain things that I read (books) or watch (movies, plays, performances, etc) or hear (music) where you just get the feeling that ‘somebody understands’.  If that sounes emo, well, so be it– the fact is, each one of us lives such infinately different lives that it’s quite easy to feel different from everyone else.  Like all things, I beleive that this can be interpreted as both a good and bad thing.  Regardless– I chreish the moments where I see a moment where I find something in common with others.  These moments add up to be happiness.

Yes, even watching an anime can make you feel that ‘somebody understands’!  In a day where we run into dozens of people, how many real connections do we feel? How often do we get a glimpse of something that really resonates with who we are?

And I’m not even talking about animes in the sense that the plot or characters relate to us.  It could just be a moment.  You could be watching for two hours and out of that, you just feel this intense connection to about 10 seconds.

When I was younger, in elementary school especially, I remember all these motivational posters being around the school walls telling you that reading was a way of opening up worlds.  I have no doubt now that though it seemed lame at the time, that this mantra was essentially true.

I’ve found that that’s what I search for from day to day– moments of connection.  It doesn’t always happen– but that’s okay too, because if it did, it would devalue the experience. Every other day, I suppose, is just setting the stage.

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  And what the hell is that stupid “Life” tag next to my name
whenever I comment anywhere? First thing that happens when I sign up
for Xanga Premium For Life is downtime of almost a day.

Impressive.

These Boots Were Made for Walking

There were enough of you that asked that I thought it would be worth mentioning in public– the “TESL Certification” course that I’m working for is short for “Teaching English as a Second Language Certification”.

It’s basically a peice of paper that makes it a bit easier for me to get a job as an english teacher.

I mentioned that I have a bunch of classmates, mostly around my age, who all have such great stories to tell.  One of the activities we had to do as a group, sort of as an icebreaker, is the ‘shoebox’– basically, you have a metaphorical shoebox in which you can store 3 things, whatever you want.

One of my classmates included a pair of soccer shoes.

“When I moved here from Korea, I was really good at running– I joined the track team and I was one of the best.  But I didn’t have any running shoes, so I wore a pair of soccer cleats instead– you could get those at Canadian Tire for 20 dollars back then.  They’re not as good as running shoes, but I used them, and I trained with them, so that I could run as fast as guys with real running shoes.  But there were track tournaments where the runs were on asphalt or a running track, and I wasn’t allowed, because of my shoes, so I’d run alongside my teammates on the track but on the grass to stay with my team. That’s all I could do for them.”

Does this sound too corny to be true?

Talking to this guy, I can tell you– it’s no lie.  Not that I’m an expert lie detector, but there are times when you look at people and you see how when they talk about things like this, they feel embarassed rather than proud.  “That’s all I could do for them”– he says that like he would wear a heart on his sleeve, as if by having only 20$ for shoes he’d somehow betrayed them.

Maybe that’s part of the truth– when you’re embarassed about it?  Those things which embarass us tend to be the most important things that we need to talk about; they turn out to be the things that shape us the most.

S-type

Knowing that the best kind of knowing comes from personal experience, I often draw on my experiences with people to get a sort of knowhow about people and things that I think is relevant. I meant, it is relevant, by derivation, since they are examples of themselves in action– that means the underlying theories of paradigms behind the way they act MUST be applicable, because they are living proof, they are the examples.

I was watching End of Evangelion last night at about 1 in the morning.  For those of you who don’t know the series, it’s one of those classics of the North American anime revolution.  I don’t know how popular it is in Japan anymore, since the series ended a long time ago, but it was one of the first big production animes ever translated for North American consumption and it played a pivotal role in how I look at the world.  It’s one of the first ‘entertainment’ things that I’d seen that really put the core of human existence right there in front of you.

The main character is one Shinji Ikari– a character who I felt, at times, that I held a lot in common with, and at other times, I felt like I really wanted to jump into the screen and kick the shit out of him.  Maybe the two instances are actually the same– they do say, and I do often beleive, that what we find to hate most in others is what we secretly hate about ourselves.

Watching End of Evangelion brought back all those memories of where I really started thining about things, about what it is to beleive in something, what it is to have faith in others, or the human race, or even in oneself.  It also gave me the sense that yes, people are really screwed up in their heads– in a funny way, it was comforting, because few movies, much less animes, will really dare to present the human mind with any sense of honesty.

Now, I know that a lot of peoplve have actually seen Neon Genesis Evangelion, the series, and they’ve got their opinions of it.  But I firmly beleive that, as Borges pointed out, the reading is perhaps as important as the writing– meaning, that I could and have made Evangelion significant to my life by internalizing it and anchoring it in my own experience.

There was a time when someone I knew said that he could understand Shinji, the main character.  Shinji’s just a kid, who’s been given this insane task of piloting what is essentiall a giant robot, to save mankind against what are essentially extraterrestrial threats. But, in the head, he’s totally screwed up: he has no mom, he’s scared shitless of his father and yet he longs for his recognition.  He has no meaningful relationships with anyone.  The people who he does come to care about are also screwed up and dealing with a very complex set of character flaws– or, they simply get killed off.  Basically, he’s got about as tough a life as they come.

But what makes matters decidedly more complicated is that Shinji is no hero.  We’d be reluctant to even call him the reluctant hero.  Time and time again, he demonstrates selfishness and hipocrisy, like a spoiled brat just looking out for his own hide.

But who can blame him?  Who can say “God damn it kid, the world needs saving and you’re the only one who can pilot that machine, so go out there and kick ass for us!”  Who has the right to demand of him anything?  Does the fact that only he can make it his responsability?

Now, it seems to me that external obligations are one thing, and internal ones are another.  I have, for example, external obligations to people.  At the core though is an internal obligation to myself.

I try to tell people that people should make helping others into something that means helping themselves.  But this doesn’t translate… helping oneself is mutually exclusive to helping others, at times.  Some people, quite simply and honesty, don’t care about anyone but themselves.

Are they selfish?

And if they are, so what?

I know some people who really, truly, only think about themselves, in the sense that their actions benefit themselves only.  They might not steal from someone, they might not get in the way of others or kick people down to get ahead– but they won’t do anything for others. They chose to be ‘introverted’ and seculde thsemselves from the world for whatever reason.  It is the person who sees the opportunity for ‘courage’, but choses ‘cowardice’.

But is cowardice really wrong?  Who does it hurt?

And is life all about hurt or avoiding hurt anyhow?  Who says we have to get anywhere with anything?

Is any of this wrong?

Or perhaps, the very selfishness which I think is theirs is in fact my selfishness, at wanting them to see the world the same way as I do.

Perhaps it is my selfishness that puts me in the same scenario as Shinji, at the End of End of Evangelion– strangling one of the people he loves.

Not that I want to commit murder.  But there are times where I do wish I could engage in an action of pure violence.  It’s the dark side of me that’s been there since I was young.  It is this lingering frustration with the world which is never quite out of my mind– but I know the kinds of moments when the frustration doesn’t hurt, and that’s usuaully at some point where I feel my mind is in oblivion.

Those sorts of moments are few and far between, because they are the points in my life when I am in what one might call an ‘unbalanced’ state of mind.

But who says there has to be a balance?  What if one did give into the Dark Side?

This is, after all, my life– isn’t it?  Can’t I get to chose what I want to do?

Out of anger, I might shout out “Shinji, you fool!” but really, this assumes I know something he doesn’t.  Do I?

I call people like Shinji “S-Types”. 

I know more S-Types than I would like to… but they’re not even true S-Types because they’ve not even developed their identities to that.

W-Types are wannabes.  The ones who are afraid or too apathetic to develop their own personalities.  And by that, I mean that they don’t develop any real feelings for themselves– be it love or hate– they just subscribe to popular templates.

My mind wanders to the saying “Keep it Real”.

An S-Type is a very infuriating person to spend time with.  Yet only in an S-Type is there really that possibility of total redemption.  The S-Type knows hardship, knows every bad human vice from selfishness to pettiness from the inside out– and that means that if they can turn it around they can be so great.

But an S-Type doesn’t always chose to do this.  In fact, they seldom do.

Shinji didn’t.

Hope, I think, is about reversals of faith.  It has to do with acheiving that which is impossible.  People hope for a lot of material things like walking on the moon or making a milion bucks.  That’s not really an important sort of hope, if you ask me– the real kind of hope, the most significant kind, has to do with the fundamental 1 or 0 of human nature, that defining yes or no at the root of a person that decides, or is decided by that person, that allows for change.

Change is so important.  If it weren’t for change, the concept of hope would be groundless.

But is change necessary?

They say that change or adaptation is necessary to survive.  But do we need to survive?

Does anything matter?

Are the unchanging S-Types the greatest fools, or the greatest kings?

Maybe ‘fatalism’ is right.

It’s nothing personal

,,,, but really, isn’t it?

When do we say “it’s nothing personal” and really mean that it has nothing to do with them as a person?

Usually I say it as filler words or something.  When I say it’s nothing personal, most likely, it IS about their personality, it is about that person’s him or her-ness that makes it impossible for me to comply.

I can’t remember if I used these lines when my relationships ended with my ex-girlfriends, but it sounds like something I might have said.

So here’s the word of the hour: relativity. 

Relativity says that this or that isn’t absolute. Things are more in terms of other things.  ‘Yes’ can only exist in contrast with ‘No’.  Or something.  And I see it, I feel it in action all the time.  On the same days that I hate people, I love’em.  On the same days that I feel lonely, I feel complete with my company.  On the same days that I think I’m doing great on my own, I long for a certain kind of company that cannot be put into words.

I think the written medium is kind of flawed to me, and to be honest, it is that way because I’m not being honest with myself.  I write these posts with no expectation of anyone reading them. It really is, in fact, just for me to look back on.  I won’t leave you readers out– I do appreciate knowing that there are people who read, and I do appreciate comments that let me know that my thoughts have made their way to someone.  But frankly– this isn’t about you.

And what I mean about not being honest with myself is that there are things that I won’t write about.  Is it because I know there’s an audience?  I don’t keep any journals except for online posting. I don’t use ‘protected’ posts, so nothing that I write is hidden from anyone else’s view.

Yet I find myself not voicing my thoughts, even if this posting is for myself. If I can’t be honest with myself, then what’s the point of this all?

It’s not something I can do overnight, that’s for sure, but I’m working on it.

I think that there’s this bad habit of mine of having an ‘agenda’ when I write. I’m trying to tell myself something, to convince myself of something, when it feels as if to convince myself is just… well, it’s a conflict of interests.

But here’s the funny thing.  When I have breif moments of honesty with myself– I just feel confused.

Is honesty equated with ‘the whole truth’?  It’s not pessimism– pessimism isn’t the whole truth. It’s not optimism– optimism isn’t the whole truth.

Is honesty then, the ‘whole truth’ (at least, according to me?)

When I say I’m confused it’s because I’m feeling a whole lot of emotions at once.  Why is this all happening?

I remember now why it was that I used to stay up so late– it’s the insomnia.  It takes off the limitors.  Sleep deprivation does that, I mean– it puts everything in a different perspective.

That, and perhaps I shouldn’t have watched an existential mindfuck like End of Evangelion… … …

There’s this idea that runs throughout End of Evangelion.  Would we rather have individuality, and with it, the possibility of happiness, and at the same time suffering, love, and at the same time betrayal?  Or would we rather have oneness, where everyone is one, to the point where there is no individual?

Really, I guess, it translates nicely to Star Trek– do you want to do something like what the Federation does, by allowing people to willingly chose to be together as individuals, or do you want to do it like the Borg, who are just trying to put the whole universe in order?

In differnet, ways, the same sense of ‘individuals’ versus ‘the whole’ translates also to decisveness.

Would you rather have an opinion,  or would you rather be completely open minded, which could mean having no opinion at all?

Ugh… my soul just feels kind of nauseated at the moment.

Out of Nowhere

Everything I’m hearing in my teaching class not only has me totally excited about teaching, but about travelling.

Its funny like that– considering how I’ve never really taught a class or travelled.  Yet here I am, wanting it as if it’s something I’m addicted to.

Basketball

“It’s something I miss from MAC for sure.  But maybe that’s just youth, you know? I mean, back then, we were tougher. Now, we might be mentally tougher because we have more willpower or something, like, we have a lot more at our command or something. But back then– well, when we used to fight back then, we were stupid. That’s a different kind of thing from mental toughness or experience.  It’s pure … something.  You know, the kind of courage that comes from, really, not knowing what defeat means.”

There I was.  Quynh and I were sitting in a park, eating takeout porkchops, chicken and french fries.  We’d just spent the late afternoon playing basketball, which isn’t something I’d normally do.  I’d just finished work, and I had played in my work clothes (yes, a button down shirt!) and walking shoes.  not exactly comfortable to play basketball, and I have the slightly sore ankle and the blistered balls of my feet to prove it.

I was thinking backwards. It’s fun to do that every now and then.  Anyone who tells you they regret nothing in their past is lying.  Anyone who says that they live only in the present is also lying, whether they know it or not.

The past shapes us.  Some of it is bad. But some of it is good, right? Sometimes, it’s all at once.

My mind was wandering to things I’d done in the past, like the MAC.  There was a time when my life revolved around it… it never ceases to amaze me, in that sense, how people can become so different in the span of mere years, perhaps even months and days.

So, it’s really the first time I’ve played basketball in several years. I am, admittedly, PRETTY bad at it.  But it was still kinda fun. I felt like quite the savage though– my shoes were slipping on the smooth asphalt, and I wasn’t quite aware of the deffense rules so it turns out that I was probably cheating a bit with the way I was basically chasing people down football style.  I did knock the glasses off some chinese kid’s face because i basically elbow dropped him in the face. Anyway.

I’d put pictuers up but I don’t have my bluetooth dongle with me, so I can’t get them off my phone at the moment.

But it was fun in a different sort of way– the way that something is when you’re doing something different, something out of the routine.  It’s something that I was reluctant to do, something that I didn’t really want, but sort of agreed to because I’ve been working so hard at getting my life in order lately.  I’ve been going after things I want, but things that were out of my scope, I just didn’t touch– so this was a nice change of pace.

It’s been a long time since I’ve played a team sport outdoors.

Only Ten of Them

Playing a simple blues riff is freaking hard.  I’m constantly getting a buzzing noise because it’s hard enough for me to reach the frets I need to reach, and by the time I’m that far extended, I hardly have any strength in my fingers to hold those chords down.

On the plus side, I guess those calouses on my fingertips are finally kicking in, so playing doesn’t hurt my fingertips anymore…

I stopped by the YMCA today to drop off a delivery.  I didn’t play badminton, I didn’t have any gear with me. But I watched a few games for a bit and it was funny, I felt sad suddenly, like I was missing out.

There’s been this feeling creeping up on me lately.  A bad feeling.

Now the thing is, I’m going after a lot of things that I want in life– but the problem is, there’s only one of me. I can’t get it all done at once.   A perfect example is how I’m trying to get my ESL certification, which takes up all my weekends, which means that in the last month, I haven’t been able to go to my own badminton club and play anything. I haven’t played badminton in about 3 weeks now.  And, before I left, I had just reached some longtime goals which i thought I would never be able to get to, like beating Cedric in singles, as well as beating a lot of other people.

You might say that the last time I played badminton, I was “at my peak”. I was as good as I ever had gotten.  And yet, now I can’t follow up, because of this ESL thing.  Don’t get me wrong– I want to do this ESL thing.

But…

I don’t know.  All the time, I’m telling people to go after what they want and to stop feeling sorry for themselves about not getting what they want.

But I’ve gotten myself into a different kind of problem– I want more than I can get.  And it isn’t a question of effort– it’s just a question of time. I just think there’s too many things I want to get done in life– I’m afraid I won’t be satisfied by the time I die.  I’m loving life, but right now… frankly, it feels like for every direction I go in, I get further away from some other things I wanted.

I guess it would all be simple if I had a one track mind, but I guess I’m greedy like that.  I want more than I can handle.

It’s frustrating.

This whole business of ‘prioritization’ really pisses me off. I want it all.

Sharing the Smell of Fear

In my teaching class today, we began presentations.  The objective, basically, was for every one of us (my classmates and I) to perform a mock class.  For example, for 15 minutes, I would give an ‘exerpt’ of a class lesson, where I was the teacher, and all of my classmates and my instructor pretended to be my students.  The lesson would be something pertaining to the instruction of english as a second language.

I did mine pretty good, all things considered.

But for some people, it was a total nightmare.

I’ve always considered public speaking abilities to be, to a large degree, indespensible.  It’s not that it makes you a better person from a moral perspective, but it certainly makes you a better person from a social and professional perspective.  Those people who label some as ‘extroverted’ or ‘outgoing’ while they pridefully call themselves introverted, I call bullshit: I don’t see any advantages whatsoever to being introverted.

I think these so called introverted people are making the assumption that extroverted or outgoing people are all bullshiters and don’t know how to think.  This isn’t true. Actual intelligence and/or the ability to introspect is completely exclusive of extro or introvertedness.  They’re two different dimensions.  But we know that people who lack the outgoingness are at a disadvantage, because those who are outgoing at least have the option of being so when they want to.  It’s an extra tool.

During the mock lessons, the mock students asked questions pertaining to the lesson.  “Sir, can you explain it one more time?” and sof orth. 

But here’s the interesting part.

Both instinctually and unconsciously, as well as purposely, the ‘students’ could smell the fear of some of the ‘teachers’.  When the teacher didn’t know his subject material inside out, when the teacher’s charisma was low, or when the teacher’s confidence was dropping, the students really ripped him/her apart.  It was brutal.

During 2 of the mock classes, the teachers completely lost control of the classroom.

Of course, class control skills, public speaking abilities, charisma and willpower, these things can be acquired– this is why we’re taking this course, of course.

But I don’t know.  The feeling I get is that people don’t respect the mechanics of good public speaking.  They often think it’s all about content.

But a teacher isn’t always about content– half of it is delivery.  The teacher isn’t there to just dump information on you– the teacher is there to stimulate interest, and elicit responses that lead to immersive learning.

The many hours I’ve spent with this crowd makes me feel really tight with them… but to be honest, I don’t think we’re all going to make it.  Some of the group just, at the moment, aren’t strong enough to handle this kind of environment.  When I speak about the smell of fear, I’m talking about that snowball effect that starts from the moment the ‘teacher’ gets in front of the room and shows a sign of weakness.  The ‘students’, as much as the ‘teacher’, understand that this simulation is a question not just of content, but of control– if the ‘teacher’ tries to push too hard, the ‘students’ resist and whip back.  And being outnumbered 20 to 1, the odds are in favor of the class.

While it is true that problem students will not always arise, I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that at some point, they will, and that they will often. Thus, the only real option one has is to prepare for the worst. 

I think preparation is the only deffense that the teacher can put together. That means the teacher knows his/her stuff, and has done the homework. And really, would you respect a professor who didn’t?

It was painful to watch at times.

I’ll admit– I was one of the hyenas that was tearing the ‘weaker’ teachers limb from limb.  But this is the way it has to be done– I mean, we all put eachother through hell.  Some of us survived it better than others.  But I think we all know that it’s for the best, and that it’s in everyone’s best interests if we get the experience dealing with adversity while we still have the chance at constructive criticism following the simulation.

It’s been an emotional saturday as a result.

I think I understand now what’s going on in the heads of people on reality tv shows who are hugging eachother because someone is going to be eliminated.  We’ve all endured together, yet, it’s obvious at times that some of us won’t make it. 

… and yet, even through their weakness, I can’t help but respect these people I’m working with even more. They are all trying so hard.  They are all so supportive of eachother.  They all want to be stronger, but not only that, they all want to make their friends stronger as well.  It is a group of people who I have never seen before– it’s a group that is at once brutal witheachother, and yet, in the most selfless way possible…

… does that concept make sense to you?

It’s about as tough as tough love gets.

I never thought I’d find myself in a room full of aspiring Great Teachers.

And so maybe I’m just being too pessimistic– maybe out of sheer force, they will make it.  Who knows? 

If These Walls Could Talk

“Oh, actually,” I explain, “you’re probably more right than you think in saying I shouldn’t bring anything.  My cooking’s pretty bad, I’m told.  Actually, my ex-girlfriend banned me from trying anything in her kitchen.”

“That bad?”

I nod.

“To tell you truth,” she explained, with a heavy greek accent, “I was bad at cooking. Very bad.  I am married for 16 years. When I married, I would not eat my own cooking, it was so bad.”

“That bad?”

She nods.  “Yes.  But you know what? He always told me my cooking was good.  He always told me that everyday, it was even better.   Not one day he said he didn’t like my cooking.”

“And now, you’ve just made the only eggplant dish in existence that I not only can eat without gagging, but it’s actually pretty good,” I remark.

“Yes!  I will be grateful for his love forever.”

We had a potluck lunch today, and I ate so much eggplant mousaka that I almost died.  I hate eggplant– normally.  But this is really, really good.

“The mousaka is just a tourist drug,” I say, downing another peice.

“That is right!” she exclaims.  “Next thing you know you will move to greece to satisfy your addiction with harder foods!”

************

“No– I don’t think so.  Drug users are seldom abusive. In any case, I don’t see any marks on her.”

“The ones that she does have are self inflicted.  Did we do a requisition for a psicon, [Jinryu]?”

“Yeah, I sent it out this morning, but the on-call psychiatrist is at the Vic all day, he can’t possibly come by earlier than next tuesday.”

“She’s got terrible self-esteem.  I don’t get it.  Did you hear what she’s been saying?”

“What?”

“So, she’s 25, she’s got cystic fibrosis, her boyfriend is a drug addict and he recently dumped her– and that’s why she tried to [kill herself].  But she’s saying that he was the only one, and that the fact that he understood and rejected her means that it’s proof.  Proof of– fuck, I don’t know.  Proof that she’s not worth it.”

“That’s absurd!”

“Yeah, CF patients back in the 70s had a life expectancy of 20 years old.  In the 90s it was 40.  Now, it’s a lot further still.”

“Yeah, but tell that to someone who is living on the edge of that.  Imagine that, thinking everyday that you only have 10 more years to live?  What kind of future are you going to build? No wonder she’s dating a junkie.”

The patient we’re discussing is in the isolation room next to my office.  Sometimes, when her door is slightly ajar, I can hear her crying.  She spends most of her day crying  that she’s not good enough.

**************

“No,” says the technician, “the networks are still fubared. And man, do I mean fubared, I mean sideways and right up the ass.”

“I never heard of this kind of damage from a virus before,” I remark.  “I mean, I’ve heard– but I’ve never been part of a network that’s under seige.  Who the hell invades a hospital network anyway?”

“I dunno.  It could get someone fucking killed.  It’s two days now we operate on intranet alone– internet is still too risky.  But it’s taking forever because we’re 20 people doing kernel updates on the whole network.”

“And here you are, taking a break, talking to me.”

“Fuck you man.”

“I’m kidding, you know.”

“Yeah, I know.”  He gets up, and slaps me on the back.  “Anyway, you’re right though.  Back to work.  This motherfucker has over ten components.  Did you know that? “

“The memo said ‘multiple’.”

“Yeah, multiple. It’s fucking all over us.  We’re fucking dying, I’ve been here for two days and I’ve slept 5 hours.”

“You want a coffee?”

“[Jinryu], your coffee tastes like shit.”

“I’m just offering.”

He rubs his eyes, which are bloodshot and lined by black bags. As he heads to the stairwell, he’s agaist the backdrop of the sun.

As he walks into the sunset, no song comes up for the tired hero, so I imagine one in my head for him.