I wish I had the time to write something good but I am in a rush. Here’s part of an essay from earlier this year in English class:
What servicemen chose to carry revealed who they were. Select 3 of the characters. Explain what each carried and what was revealed about that character.
The Things They Carried is Tim O’Brian’s semi-fictionalized account of his time spent fighting in the Vietnam War. Told in a series of short memoirs, the author jumps from character to character, a story to story, in order to explore a range of themes: from death and ethics, to love and the relationship between truth and fiction. In Chapter I, O’Brien describes the physical items each soldier chooses to carry during their march. With this, the reader gets a sense of the characters, their emotional baggage, and their coping mechanisms; all of which are expanded on throughout the novel.
In just the first few pages of the book, the platoon leader is introduced through his chosen supplies. Jimmy Cross, simply referred to as Lieutenant, carries with him correspondence from a girl named Martha, who lives back home in Ohio. “In the late afternoon, after a day’s march, he would… unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending.” Among these letters are also two photographs and an oval pebble collected from the Jersey shoreline and gifted to him for good luck. The Lieutenant’s memorabilia expresses that he is lovestruck, and wishful and turns to his imagination in order to escape his dire reality. In fact, Cross will one day be so absorbed in his fantasies that when a fellow troop, Lavender, is shot on his watch, he blames himself and burns the letters. Because, while he may be a romantic, the Lieutenant also has a great sense of duty. As the unit commander, “Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books…and the responsibility for the lives of his men.” Altogether, the Lieutenant’s possessions reveal his sentimental and dutiful true nature – two qualities that he relies on during the intensity of warfare.
Nujabes’ music is so fun to play. I don’t care if he’s mainstream. Almost all of his music is brimming with these beautiful chords and his progressions are fantastic. My favorite pieces by him for the piano are Flowers, Lady Brown, Luv(sic), Battlecry, and Kumomi.
This is weird but I like playing what’s meant for the guitar in like rock songs, for example, Breakthru (Queen) and Big shot are a blast.
Another fun thing you could do is take classic jazzy pieces (misty, autumn, blue in green whatever stuff for old people from like Bill Evans, Chick Correa, Miles Davis, and J Coltrane) and just add like bossa-y chords think m7 or m9s, with a hint of blue scales here and there. Ok, someone who does this really well is this guy on TikTok who wistfully plays. I LOVE what he does.
Obviously, I’m a sucker for big pretty chords. R&B music is a good place to find these, think Bruno Mars, and ok this isn’t the same thing but bossa- Japanese songs (Masayoshi Takenaka) often use like the same chords. Somewhere you can find more eccentric and weird chords -which I also love- is surprisingly in rap. Some of these songs sample really unique piano tracks that are really fun to play. Seriously: Tyler, mf doom, nas, jid and like all the classic rap artists have some songs with super chords.
Today, I am having an off day. I know it when I wake up because I start my day with a sigh rather than a smile. I don’t bother to make myself feel good by putting on some mascara and emphasizing the pink on my cheeks, I let my eye bags express the weight falling on my head. I put on my Uggs, and I always wear Uggs on my off days. they remind me of my childhood and the ability to cheer myself up simply by the embrace of my mother. It takes more now, a walk or a bath won’t fix it. It sits deep within the structure of my body. It sheathes across all of my nerve endings, running through every square inch of me. It is not sad, nor is it happy, it just is. The feeling of simply not feeling it strangely comforting to me. It is not dark or sad, it is normal. It is okay to sit and let your mind drift into space. It is okay to sit on the floor of the shower and let the water trickle down your face and across your lips. It is okay to put on a show and not pay attention. It is okay to go for a walk and find yourself sitting on the icy pavement within 5 minutes. It’s okay to keep your headphones in all day and let your world be surrounded by something that you chose. I don’t know who needs to hear it, but it is okay. I often forget that this is not being lazy, unmotivated, or worthless. It is normal. Everyone has days where the air seems a little thicker and the light feels a little dim. Whether you choose to admit it or not is a choice, I do, because I want people to know that despite my sarcastic sense of humor and plastered smile, I too have off days. It’s really hard to see the bright side sometimes because maybe there just isn’t one. I mean sure, someone always has it worse, and hey, at least I’m alive. Believe me, I’m grateful, but for the love of god let me feel something. Anything.
There is a very niche genre of songs my Dad loves.
They’re a blend of weird slapstick-parody comedy. Think Weird Al but more archaic.
Artists like Dr. Demento and Allan Sherman (Camp Granada guy) produce music in this genre. My Dad’s favorite, Tom Lehrer, however, stands out to me.
Like the rest of these creators, he is really smart. In fact, he graduated from Harvard. When I was a kid, I remember watching his song “New Math.” Besides being really catchy, it is overloaded with subtle jokes like the rest of his songs. Anyway, he’s a really clever guy and is one of my favorite satiric songwriters.
I feel like I need to write more so I’ll talk about Weird Al, I guess. I have first introduced to him a really long time ago one night while I was eating dinner. Someone thought I ate too slowly so she started playing “eat it.” I thought it was really funny. Anyway, he’s a cool guy too like Tom Lehrer, really smart. And guess what, he went to Calpoly. Like what’s the deal with all these comedian-songwriters and their impressive educational backgrounds.
Last week, I noticed a blog post about the author’s best friend, which has inspired me to talk about one of my strongest relationships.
My best friend is named Ula. Ula is 5″8 with brown hair tinged red and green eyes streaked with gold. Freckles speckle every inch of her skin and someday she is going to get a dot tattoo to symbolize the love she has developed for this feature, as well as her womanhood and power.
Ula is beautiful. Her smile is one of the most radiant I have ever witnessed and a contagious laugh. Sometimes we laugh together to such lengths that no sound escapes our lips and we gasp for air between fits of giggles.
Ula wouldn’t hurt a fly. She rescues spiders from her bathtub, lets mosquitos feast on her blood rather than swat them away, goes on camping trips in cow pastures, and wouldn’t leave her dog’s side during its final days. Sasha is now buried under the oak tree on her property and when Ula thinks of her, her eyes well with tears. Ula will not lie either. On the rare occasion that she must, her voice grows timid and shaky, a pitch too high, and her golden green eyes will not make contact with another pair.
If Ula were a season, she would be springtime, and if she were a place, she would be a wildflower meadow cut through by a rushing stream. If Ula were an animal, she would be a smiley manatee. And if she was an emotion, my Ulita would be pure joy.
This is not just to make Mr. Alvarez happy. I am beyond angry that I got covid, not because of the amount of late work I’m doing this fine Sunday night and not because of the stress I currently face around college, but because it likely destroyed my shot of finishing my last cross country season successfully. For three years i have struggled, fought, and cried over my times in cross country and each year i’ve gotten a little but better. This year, before I even had covid it felt like I had reached a plateau in my running yet every day that passes that I sit in my room I get more and more hopeless about running in the 18s this season. Cross Country is very strange, as far as running in total goes my times are dismal and downright bad but the amount of effort and work I’ve put in makes me proud of them, in the end though it’s futile because I will never go anywhere with running i’ll just finish this season and likely never run in the same sense again yet still I have this need and desire to keep trying my best and keep pushing beyond what I’m capable of. This stretch of covid has just made the fight so much harder and it’s difficult to keep going especially with a positive attitude that’s necessary for captainship.
I tested positive for Covid exactly one week ago. Surprisingly, the time went by fairly quickly, as I occupied myself with reading, homework, and plenty of Netflix.
Here’s everything I watched while quarantined:
The second half of The Italian Job. We started this during film studies, and I can’t say I know why. It’s a pretty good movie, but not exactly a classic. And as much as I like a good car chase, it’s a little less exciting when they’re driving minis.
Bridget Jones’ Diary. This has not aged well. Perhaps if I were to disregard the fatphobia and blatant sexism, it would be a fairly enjoyable watch. The premise itself is good – who doesn’t love a romantic comedy, with a relatable protagonist, and a love triangle? But the execution, not so much.
Several episodes of Gilmore Girls. Rory and Jess are beginning to flirt and I cannot wait to see how Dean reacts. I can feel a breakup is coming, and I am so ready! Dean might be absolutely gorgeous, but I personally detest him and his short temper. Rory deserves better.
The first couple of episodes of the Great British Baking Show season 10. This show never fails to make me smile and give me an appreciated British nostalgia. They always manage to find the sweetest bunch of contestants. I’m obsessed with the gay Polish guy.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I LOVED this one. Is Audrey Hepburn totally iconic? YES. Am I going to be Holly for Halloween? Very possibly. The only part I didn’t like was the scene where she threw her cat out of the taxi, and then proceeded to search for it in the rain. It gave me so much anxiety – I breathed a heavy sigh of relief when she finally found Cat.
I’m choosing to write about my best friend this week. Most of my friends know who she is because she’s a pretty common topic of conversation for me. Carol is 17, she was born on May 31st, 2005. She is 5’5 and has long dark hair. Her eyes are the color of molasses and her cheeks are always pink. I’ve never loved someone outside of my mom, dad, or brother as much as I love Carol. Vaughn and Carol are good friends, she’s always nice to him even though he’s younger. She helped me see him as more of a friend than a sibling and I will always be grateful for that. My mom and dad love her, they always say that she’s the best friend I’ve ever had and if she ever needs somewhere to stay they will have her with open arms. Carol sleeps at my house every Friday after school and we haven’t missed more than two weekends for an entire year. We like to eat with my family and watch movies and play with my kitten. She never brings clothes and keeps a toothbrush in the cabinet. She smells like peaches. She makes me laugh harder than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. It often hurts because of how hard she makes me laugh. Her smile makes me want to cry because I know that she doesn’t always see how beautiful she is. I tell her, I just hope she listens. She makes me feel better about myself and showed me self-respect. She will always be honest even if she knows it will hurt your feelings and I wouldn’t trade that about her for anything. I can always count on her to defend me in the case that I need defending. We share a closet and go to Starbucks almost every Saturday. Carol will give you her whole heart, and it takes a lot for her to take it back. She always gives me second chances even when I feel like I don’t deserve them. She is amazing at volleyball and going to her games every Tuesday makes me so so proud. She is passionate and smart and kind-hearted. Carol is the strongest person I know and I often stay up at night wondering how she does it. I love her and I would give my life so that she could live hers. Nobody makes me feel as loved as Carolina.
There is one word to describe the feeling that I’ve had all day. Scraping. my soul has been aching to claw its way out of me. I know what it wants, it wants to rip my chest open and thrust its way through the bars. My mind is filled with serrated lines shooting across the interior of my skull. I shake because I am so trapped in here. When I look in the mirror I can feel my eyes fall back into my head as they drown in the screams that shatter throughout my brain. I can not see myself. Why can’t I see myself? No matter how hard I glare at myself in the reflection I’ve trained to stay still, I can see my face morph and melt into the person I try so desperately to hide. I like to imagine my hands pulling my face as they slide across my skin, dissolving the only thing that is truly there with me at the end of each night. My skin tingles all the time, it radiates through me like small bursts of electricity stopping the beat of my heart with each one. It was supposed to be easy, “crying doesn’t make things better” I was trained for this. I was trained for this straight face and beautiful smile. Why can’t I see myself? “No one will feel sorry for you with that look on your face” I’m sorry, the tears burn their way through the gloss that shields my emotionless face. They leave scars you know, the tears, they ruin the smile. I was taught to cry only in front of a mirror, that way I can watch them disintegrate my complexion, I force myself to watch as I express the most basic human emotion and torture myself at the very same time. This is how I was taught to feel so excruciatingly uncomfortable in my very own skin.
The best reality documentary on youtube is a Vice series titled “North Korean Labor Camps” where they sent a Canadian Journalist, Shane Smith, to investigate the hermit kingdom and bring back cultural learnings with him.
It has everything: politics, humor, wit, fear, camaraderie with absolutely random people, realities of everyday life of common people, getting banned and kicked out, and going into the endless unknown (Siberian Tiga) like a spaceship.
It’s in a blog, video diary format with a pretty bad camera (it was 10 years ago), and it’s just so cool. All seven parts of the series are just insane. He gets in trouble with the FSB, there’s a car chase in the wilds of Siberia, and he befriends the local mob. My favorite part though is all the random people that just helped and tagged along: a cop, ex-chief of police, freelance journalist, and some crazy Russian guy who saved the journalist from angry authorities.
It all started in North Korea, with a video titled “We Tried Sneaking Journalists into North Korea.” In it, you see how unsettling and just off North Korea feels, at least 10 years ago. Anyway, soon he finds out that Koreans are being sent to logging camps for like several years at a time in Eastern Russia and so begins the aforementioned series. I want to do something like this one day.
Besides what he manages to uncover, what’s most shocking is how calm the journalist was despite the tense circumstances. From intimidating drunk guys on trains to North Korean camp leaders telling him no, he just kept his cool and kept asking questions. That’s a Journalist!