The “System” in the Educational System

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted here. Like….a couple of months. Was busy with college apps, then school work. But now, I have some time, so hopefully I’ll post more.

What I want to write about today is actually what’s been preventing me from blogging, from just sitting down quietly at my seat and just writing. I guess you could call it, school.

It’s annoying when I have to try to find a balance between school and art. I’m forced to squeeze in time to write what I want to write, to take photos at the most inconvenient times possible, or to listen and make lyrics to music. It’s as if school is trying to pull me away from my passion and forcing me to do a shit ton of grit work. It’s as if school is trying to say, yes we want you to be an enlightened individual, but you gotta follow our format. You gotta do what we say. And this system is annoying.

What I really wish for is the ability to squish this educational system with my passion into one. So that I can devote a good chuck of my time doing and sharpening what I like.

My English teacher one day noted how as kids, literature was everybody’s favorite subject. We all liked to listen to stories, to tell stories ourselves, to let our imaginations fly. But then came the educational system, which just butchered everything up and crammed into us grammar rules, analysis skills, and all that bullshit. And along the way, for many of us, literature became something boring. That magic was lost.

The educational system failed to capture the soul of the subject of literature. I could say the same goes with math, science, and so many other subjects. Most of us don’t see the beauty of it anymore; it’s just a bunch of facts and rote memorization.

Of course, however, it could have never captured it in the first place. It’s because the educational system is a system. 

But here’s the problem: there is no absolute way one can categorize the human learning experience. The fact we have first grades, second grades, and so on doesn’t make sense to me if it’s true that all of us learn at different paces. There’s no way either you could definitely pinpoint a person’s skill level to be either regular, AP, or honors level. We’re humans; you just can’t.

In fact, thinking that we can only hurts us more. A phenomenon called the Matthew Effect sums it up pretty nice, in which psychologist Roger Barnsley noticed that a huge majority of pro Canadian hockey players tended to be born in the earlier months of the year. Why? Because the recruiting system goes by year.

For instance, suppose the NHL recruits by year and takes all the little kids born in 1998. They’ll be put through some training or competition of sorts and from there, they’ll take the best few and put them in the “honors” camp — those likely to be pro. This seems fair, right? Not really so.

Psychologist Roger Barnsley

If you think about it, those born in December and later months are technically one year younger than those born in January and the earlier months. In other words, they’re less physically mature by one year, and therefore, easier to be beaten out. Do they suck? No, just that they’re younger. So what starts out as a small gap in age becomes a huge gap in skill once all those born in the earlier years are placed in the honors system and are bombarded with resources and whatnot. Those born later are likely to be put in the regular system and not given much attention.

Because of this systemic approach to athletics, society has just squandered the potential of nearly half the population– those born in later months of the year. So if you’re born in December, you should just give up playing pro hockey even if you have a talent in it– it’s almost impossible.

It’s unfair, and yes, it’s wrong. Because you cannot categorize how humans grow or develop as athletes. The same thing all applies to our education.

Fixing this is easier said than done, of course. But the utopian solution is if everything can be individual-based. It’s kind of like being home-schooled, or self-teaching yourself. In which you know what you want to do, in which you know how you learn, and you act on that. Instead of being forced into a system, you make your own system. You learn at your own pace, and you focus on what you know you want to do.

This does comes with problems of its own such as lack of motivation. So a good mix would be having a school system but trying to make it as individualized as possible. The only thing we should be wary of is not getting too much into the system itself.


Our Government Is Messed Up- And It’s The People’s Fault

These days in America, nobody likes the government. Nothing gets passed, there’s always childish bickering, everything seems rigged, etc. Much of this results from the extreme gridlock we have today between Democrats and Republicans– with few exceptions, neither side basically wants to compromise practically anything.

An article from The Atlantic blamed all this gridlock on the Constitution itself, noting how our system of checks and balances is so strong that one branch of the government can prevent the other from governing. Included is the fact American politicians so strongly believe in this system that it compels them to take strong stances.

Although true, much of the blame should not lie on the Constitution. Its system of check and balances is essential and has proven to work smoothly before. Neither should all of the blame be heaped on the politicians themselves who have refused to compromise.

There is one factor that the article didn’t emphasize. The people. Yes, it’s the people’s fault.

The Civil War. One of the most divisive periods of American history.

What was said is probably counter intuitive to the usual political culture where politicians keep on praising how wonderful the people are and how bad the government is. But the truth is, a divided government reflects a divided people, not the other way around. Think back to before the Civil War. One side wanted slavery; the other didn’t. All those compromises between politicians, such as the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, didn’t work at all. Why? Because no matter how many “across-the-aisle” bills politicians pass, if the people themselves don’t compromise, conflict is inevitable.

The situation today goes along the same lines, where the present political climate has never been this polarized since the Civil War. The Republicans (especially the Tea Party) and Democrats have not budged a bit, even getting the government into shutdowns over issues such as healthcare and more recently, a possible shutdown just over Planned Parenthood. None of these issues are significant enough to warrant such disasters.

Yet why is this so? Because the people themselves are polarized. Why do the Tea Party Republicans keep on getting re-elected despite never compromising? Because the people they represent like that– in fact, those people think they aren’t hard enough on Obama. And to be fair, those politicians are dong their job– representing the people accurately. This isn’t just the GOP but also the Democrats, too.

Bernie Sanders at Liberty Univ. Image from NBC.

Of course, it is inevitable that the people in America have diverse points of views. Yet there are always a few issues, probably even more important than the ones that divide citizens, that both liberals and conservatives can agree on. Both sides are tired with establishment politics. Both sides are tired of money influencing elections. Both sides hopefully want to get rid of institutional racism. And so on. Our political culture now emphasizes on issues that polarize us. That has got to change.

One of the 2016 candidates, Bernie Sanders, realizes this. He, a self-proclaimed socialist, recently went to and spoke at Liberty University, one of the most conservative places in America. And his reason for this was simple– “It is easy to go out to talk to people who agree with you… But it is harder, but not less important, to communicate with those who do not agree with us.” That’s precisely it. Sure, the politicians can claim that they’ve reached out to other politicians from different parties. But what matters more is if one reaches out to the people of the other party and strike a deal with them. To focus on what unites the people, so things that need to get done can be done.

And when the people are united, so will the government. Hopefully, that day comes soon.

Do you really love me?

Recently, I’ve been swamped with school, and most dreadfully, college apps (to explain for my lack of blogging recently). As the issue of college  gets nearer and nearer to me, an inevitable conflict has risen up as my parents get involved in the college process. The problem is this: I want to pursue journalism and politics and something of that sort as my major; whereas my parents disagree.

Now, they don’t straight up disagree with me. They did, but now, they just say, “You know, Titus, it’s unfair to force you to do something you don’t want to, especially since you worked so hard. So we’ll support you.” Yet, it’s obvious they reluctantly did so. And reluctant support is not support at all.

I recently found out that if I had wanted to go to any top journalism university, it was very likely that my family would have to pay around 40k to 50k. My parents said that was too much. Yet, I found out to my dismay that had I been pursuing the typical STEM that everybody at my school was chasing, my dad would have willingly hopped onto the board and invest his 50k into my education. The reason? Because journalism doesn’t pay much to be worth the 50k, my dad says.

So I wanted to ask him, is the worth of a career really dependent on the salary or on the content of your job? But it’s his goddam money, so I didn’t do much and dropped back.

I perfectly understand why he’s concerned with the salary part. If I don’t have a good enough salary, I might have to spend most of my time worrying about the next place I’m eating or sleeping at. I might have a harder time trying to make a living. He’s concerned with my future, definitely, and that’s why he wants me to pursue STEM. Many people interpret this concern as love. My parents do. But.. I don’t. So the second question I’ve always wanted to ask my parents: Do you really love me?

In class, I rewatched 500 Days of Summer, a fantastic movie by the way. It narrates in achronological order the experiences of one guy (Tom Hansen) who helplessly falls in love with a beautiful girl named Summer. So much so that he doesn’t see the fact she only sees him as a friend. And when reality hits him, he goes into super depression mode and has a change in perspective on life. My teacher brought up the theme of love and had us think about it. So I did, and I asked myself, did Tom really love Summer? I thought back to all my crushes, and I was like nah, it was just lust. But “lust” didn’t feel like the right answer for Tom– he really put so much thought and emotion into their shared experiences and he really, just really, “loved” her. It didn’t feel right to dismiss his efforts as merely lust. But yet, it wasn’t love.

Actually, now that I think about it, it was love. No, he didn’t love her. He loved himself. Tom had carved for himself the perfect image of Summer and placed it so high on a pedestal that he truly loved that image. But that image was formed by his own thoughts and ideas of what the relationship was like. None of that was from Summer. And I guess all the girls I fell for in the past weren’t those actual girls, but what I thought was the perfect girl and how she was the most cute and charming. Both Tom and I loved our own ideas, not the girl.

And so it’s the same here. I remember overhearing my dad say, from middle school to now he has been doing all the right things, getting good grades, good scores, good extracurricular activities, yada, yada, yada and all that bs. And now, says my dad, he takes the last wrong step and decides to pursue journalism. Now, when in the world did he have the supreme authority to decide what I did was right or wrong? I aimed for good grades and good extracurricular activities for myself, not for what my dad thought was right. I now aim to be a journalist for myself, not for him. And I realize that in the end, I was just an attempt for him to make his own ideas of a perfect son come true. He never loved me; he loved his own ideas of what his perfect son should be.

And I realize I’ m probably not the only parent-child pair in this situation; I can imagine many of my peers at my school being forced to pursue STEM are like this. But I will never buckle down to what my parents think is right for me. If a parent loved his or her child truly, he or she would freely support the child to follow what he wants of himself.

And now I ask myself, do I really love my parents? And to be honest, I don’t know the answer myself.

To Asian-American Students: Be Less “Asian”

Asian American stereotypes, like all racial stereotypes, are wrong and harmful. All Asians play piano. All Asians are test machines who can do dirty work but cannot think for themselves. All Asians are good at STEM and want to get into good colleges. Asians suck at sports and are better with books. These labels exist everywhere, from the sports world to yes, the college admissions process. Obviously, all these are wrong.

The sad thing is, we Asian Americans in general are reinforcing those labels.

About a month ago, groups of Asian American advocates filed a lawsuit against Harvard University claiming that despite higher standardized test scores and higher grades, Asian Americans were being unfairly held to a higher standard than that of other races. Lawsuits like these have increased with the implementation of holistic review, a process that ensures the accepted pool’s diversity in interest, socioeconomic background, experience, and lastly, race and ethnicity.

Asian American families specifically bristle at the race and ethnicity factor, accusing colleges of specifically targeting Asian Americans and calling it racial discrimination. However, by fighting holistic review, they are only proving colleges right—they may ace test scores, but when it comes to diversity, Asian Americans are lacking big time.

As evident, Asian Americans are the most competitive group applying to top-notch colleges. But when faced with a large pool of applicants who all have high scores and spectacular academic success, colleges can only make the logical choice of picking those who stand out – those with unique personalities or compelling stories.

Unfortunately, Asian Americans are, in general, quite uniform. When I asked around my Asian friends at school (which is predominantly Asian) about their potential career paths, the answers were always doctor, lawyer, engineer, doctor, lawyer, engineer, and so forth. I found myself to be the lone Asian at my school wanting to be a journalist or writer, and only a few others wanted to be in careers that weren’t STEM or high-paying. I found a surprising majority of Asian Arcadia students who played piano but very few, like me, who do not. Even their backgrounds were quite similar—taking SAT classes, studying for a lot of APs, aiming for good grades, etc. seemed to be what everybody was doing.

Yet, because so many Asians, Arcadian or not, follow this same path, it has become the definition of what it means to be “Asian,” racial stereotypes applied by Asians themselves. Thus, when colleges are looking through their applicant pools, they see all the same things among Asian-Americans. So no, they are not being racist when they reject an Asian despite his or her high qualifications; they are rejecting most Asians because they are unqualified in the diversity aspect—too many are doing the same thing and have the same background and thus are not compelling enough to stand out.

As a result, many admissions counselors have already advocated Asian American students to “be less Asian.” No, they are not asking students to take away their cultural identity, as many critics claim; they are simply asking to break away from those stereotypes. Such actions might entail pursuing something other than the typical STEM jobs or perhaps getting more into sports. None of these actions take away the Asian identity; it only makes them less Asian according to the stereotypes. And along the way, it significantly boosts one’s chances of being admitted.

To do this, however, with the simple goal of getting into college is wrong and dishonest to oneself. One should do it for his or her own good. There is this big shadow in which the Asian American community is shoving all its youth into one direction of pursuing the same fields and achieving the same scores and aiming for the same top colleges. Through this, not only has the stereotypes developed, but it is misleading and forcing many Asian American students to follow this set path that has become the Asian norm. The result is that many are lacking something—to which my personal knowledge and many other witnesses can testify—called passion.

Ultimately, the message is to break that norm. To my Asian-American peers: if you really have a passion for STEM, then by all means pursue it. However, if you are only pursuing it because your parents say so, because it is high paying, or because everybody is doing it, reconsider your choices and allow yourself to explore and break free from those Asian norms. If you do really have a passion for something, do something beyond school and tests that supports that passion. Pursue activities that are unique and different from that of your peers, whether it be football or playing something other than the piano or violin. All these activities will increase one’s chances of admission, but most importantly, it will allow one to become a better and more unique person overall.

Lifetime Appointments for Supreme Court Justices

Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has gone through landmark court cases, from protection of the Affordable Care Act to the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide.

roberts Why we need lifetime terms for Supreme Court justices

Chief Justice John Roberts. Credit: RedState

For conservatives, this has proven to be a step backward, and in an effort to fight the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, they have argued that, as Justice John Roberts puts it, “Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law.” Simply put, each of these judges simply have too much power over too much of a long time; just one vote could swing the entire direction of America. Getting rid of lifetime terms would help put a check on this seemingly infinite amount of power.

Liberals, surprisingly, also have an interest in putting term limits for Supreme Court justices. Many note how a majority of the SCOTUS justices are significantly much older than the general population, and due to this, are out of sync with American citizens. In other words, the rulings and opinions of much older people are being unfairly imposed on the lives of young Americans (who are predominantly liberal), which is simply undemocratic.

Both points are valid, and there has been renewed calls to set term limits on Supreme Court justices. But both points are simply wrong.

 Why we need lifetime terms for Supreme Court justices

The Supreme Court. Credit: Wikipedia

First off, the judicial branch was never meant to be democratic, and for good reason. The Founding Fathers were afraid that the opinions of justices would be too susceptible to popular opinion had there been no lifetime terms. At first glance, nothing sounds wrong– why, isn’t it all the more representative if this were to happen?  What’s the harm?

The problem is popular opinion is not always right. If the majority of a population were racist whites, then surely the Supreme Court would fail its duty to simply follow the popular opinion of its time. Similarly, landmark court cases such as Mapp V. Ohio and Georgia V. Randolphhave protected and advanced the rights of criminals, which would likely have been ignored by a majority of the population, who generally do not support criminals. “The dynamic of our constitutional system is that individuals need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right. The Nation’s courts are open to injured individuals who come to them to vindicate their own direct, personal stake in our basic charter. An individual can invoke a right to constitutional protection when he or she is harmed, even if the broader public disagrees and even if the legislature refuses to act,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy.

In essence, lifetime terms for justices is a check on the majority itself to prevent abuses on the minority. Both the executive and legislative branches, which constantly have to be re-elected or elected, have to follow the majority to stay on the job; only the judicial branch is free of this.

Supreme Court US 2010 Why we need lifetime terms for Supreme Court justices

The current Supreme Court justices. Back row (left to right): Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel A. Alito, and Elena Kagan. Front row (left to right): Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Credit: Wikipedia

While many claim that life terms give the Supreme Court too much power, it actually prevents the other two branches from achieving that goal. SCOTUS justices are appointed by the president and approved by the Senate, and as seen in history, they are often chosen according to the president’s tastes. Conservative presidents, like George W. Bush, tended to appoint conservative judges, such as Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito, while Barack Obama, a liberal, appointed Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both who tend to vote pro-Obama on many issues. The fact that the Senate plays a part only factors in its political influence into the court. Furthermore, the retirement of justices can turn political as well, as seen with many urging Justice Ruth Ginsburg to retire now so Obama could appoint another liberal justice to the court, lest it be too late if a Republican becomes president next term.

sotomayor090526 Why we need lifetime terms for Supreme Court justices

Obama’s appointment of Sonia

Sotomayer in 2009. Credit: The Daily Signal

The solution to this, however, is not to set term limits, as some suggest. True, by giving lifetime appointments, a justice does indeed have the chance to retire at the “right” time. But at the same time, the only times politics influences the court would be at the appointment and the retirement– everything else in between the justices are free from politics and free from political retribution (as seen with conservative Justice Roberts voting pro-Obama a surprising number of times). Setting term limits, which would give rise to higher occurrences of appointments and retirements, would only increase the politics played into the court. It could very possibly give rise to a constant race between Democrats and Republicans on who could appoint the most of their type into the Supreme Court.  Lifetime appointments, on the other hand, would significantly decrease this, as the Founding Fathers wanted.

To sum it all up, Alexander Hamilton noted in The Federalist Papers that “nothing can contribute so much to its firmness and independence as permanency in office.” That includes independence from politics as well as from popular opinion. And in order for justice to be blind, it must stay this way. The Founding Fathers got it right this time around.

Girls… and Me

I don’t know why, but a new sense of feeling has come over me. I feel…. kinda free. Like that guy who’s been sentenced to life in prison, then suddenly, he’s found innocent, and he’s free to go. Like taking that first step outside the cell room after all your life you’ve only seen four white walls… and then you breathe the fresh air, and you’re like, “God, it doesn’t smell like shit anymore.” Or perhaps the best way to describe it as if you’re being born, and you’re seeing the light for the first time in your life. And you can start life all over again.

Now, this cell I’ve been stuck in… are my girl problems. You laugh. You say in your head, “What the hell?” You can brush it off as me being silly. I mean, please, it’s just young love, right? Yet, if you’re one of my friends I’ve confided into, you know how badly girl problems affect me. They don’t just affect me; they drive me crazy. It gets stuck in my freaking mind and it never seems to go away.

Girls. Who are they? I don’t know. Society defines them as anyone with female genitals. Biology defines them as anyone with two X-chromosomes. My friends define them as people with long hair and feminine qualities. But me? I don’t know. But I wanna go back in time, and I wanna see if I could find my definition of them. Because there’s something about girls I can’t pinpoint. Something more than just their figure or personality or style. Something…. I can’t seem to get a hold of. But I’ll go back in time… to my first girl.

My first girl. Was my first friend. Was my only friend, back in Baldwin Stocker Elementary School, when I was in first grade. I think everybody else thought I was weird, messed up, and in truth, I was kinda messed up.  But she… accepted me for who I was. She loved my weirdness, I’d say. I still remember, every recess, I would go the playground, and we’d always meet under the slides. And then we’d chase each other and play tag, slid down the slides over and over again, talk about childish bs, etc. Then one day, some of my guy classmates taunted me for having a girl friend. Called me messed up. Told me I had cooties. And I remember how she viciously defended me and scared them away. And how she asked me, with a sweet smile, “Are you ok?” But I somehow didn’t see it as love or friendship, what she did for me. I was too immersed in my own shame, too immersed in how my peers viewed me. So I cut her off. I told her sorry, but I don’t want people to think I’m friends with a girl and have cooties and all that shit, and that… we couldn’t be friends no more. And I remembered how she cried, her eyes red, the look of hurt on her face, so painful… and she ran off. Sometimes, I think maybe she could have been the one. Sometimes, I wanna go back to that moment, and say, “Jasmine, I’m sorry. I love you.”

Jasmine became Alina in 3rd grade, when I just transferred to Holly Avenue Elementary. Alina was not beautiful or hot or anything. She wasn’t Asian like me; she was Latino. She probably wouldn’t seem to be my type….but it was her giggle. Whenever I cracked a retarded joke, nobody laughed, she laughed. She was the only one who recognized me. I would always sit next to her in lunch, and we would talk and talk and talk. Then one day I confessed. It was my first confession. And I remember how she just said, “Oh.” And stopped talking to me. And the following week, I never saw her again. Maybe she moved houses, maybe there was a freak accident, I dunno. But I can’t help but think, she probably left cause of me.

From then until the tenth grade, girls became a separate dimension. Yea, I had thoughts, and would occasionally say, oh she’s attractive, or whatnot. But it’s as if I had no feelings then; all I focused on was my schoolwork. All my friends were guys, and all my guy friends only had guy friends. Probably because of this lack of girls I probably didn’t know how to deal with them later on.

Then I met her. Won’t say her name, but I’m grateful for what she did. I was struggling through depression during this time period, and just talking to her picked me back up. But I really didn’t know how to deal with all the feelings, especially since I was mentally unstable during this time. It was just a jumble of emotions going back and forth, kinda like putting shit and crap and piss all into one goddamn blender and mixing the hell out of it, and then chugging down all that disgusting liquid down your throat until you become insane. But let me tell you, she was beautiful. White as the moon. And tall. But the aura she gave was one of brightness as well. Every time she stepped in the room, it was a party. In the end, though, I buckled down and confessed, and she said no, but she still cared for me and wanted to be my friend. But I cut her off, because, well, all of this was just too much for me.

This set the pace for how I dealt with girls from here on out. I was too afraid to fall for a girl, for fear of being rejected, so every time I felt something for a girl, I would try to avoid her. Oftentimes, I would block the girl on Facebook, because just seeing the girl’s picture would drive me insane. At times, I would succeed, and erase the girl from my memory. Oftentimes, I failed, and I would end back up talking to the girl. One girl later on cut me off– first time it ever happened to me– and from then, I began to get more paranoid. I remember I didn’t cry when she cut me off– I just stared at my computer screen for the longest time in my life, thinking, nothing.

What I hated the most, though, was how all my guy friends would pressure me to just go up and get her. And when they see me in a hesitant state, they call me pussy, coward, or some other freaking shit. Why? Just why does one’s manliness depend on a girl? It’s retarded, but I lived by it. I remember how I fucking hated myself after finding out none of the girl liked me. None of the girls even considered maybe. They just said no because I was a freaking ugly worthless piece of shit. Made me feel I was crud and I could just rot in a freaking hole. And I remember that day those thoughts just came up in my mind second after second, relentless self-cussing and self-hatred thrown at myself. Like I committed seppuku, died, revived, did it again, all in a cycle. All cause of a couple of rejections.

That’s why I loved Pitbull. His music was my self-defense mechanism. A friend of mine calls me a pussy for this, but really, I don’t care. Sometimes, when I can’t get a girl, I lie to myself, saying, yea I never really had any emotions for that girl. I never stupidly pushed myself for her, thinking I could get her. All I wanted was the body. And then the music of Pitbull plays in my head, and soon I’m aiming to live the high life, party with the hot girls all day, only for my own entertainment. All lies, but it made me feel better.

But recently, just a week ago, I found out this girl didn’t like me. But, I don’t know what happened, I just didn’t feel anything. Maybe, I just got so tired of how girls pressure my mind, that it sometimes feel as if my head is carrying a bunch of large rocks. Or maybe,  I think I realized that I was approaching girls the wrong way, trying to avoid them when I fell for them. But I think it’s because I realized that something’s gotta change. That I gotta stop taking these issues so seriously, and just, go with the flow. But something made me feel refreshed. That’s why I plan on telling it all out to this one girl this coming week, and for the first time in my life, I don’t feel scared. I don’t feel hesitant. I’m ready to let it all go. And even if she says no, I’m not gonna cut her off.

I’ve said this before, and I’ve always broken it. But this time, I feel something that I know it’s for sure. It’s in my gut feeling that after this year, girls will just be girls to me. Just people, not love interests who reject me. And I feel confident that if I like a girl, I won’t be going down that messed up emotional path again. I feel that I can actually start to see a girl  I like as simply a friend.

But that feeling I’ll never forget. When that girl smiles at you, laughs, looks at you. And all you can do is smile sheepishly. I love it when her hair flows down her face, and when she starts bubbling excitedly, and when she gives a huge grin that just punctures your heart. I love it when she cries, because she’s so cute when she cries, and when she gets her baby fingers to wipe away her tears. I love the way she walks, the way her body moves, the way she speaks, the way she acts. I love it especially when she turns her attention to me, and makes me feel that I’m something.

So what is a girl? I don’t know still. Maybe I’ll find out when I’m older.

Rant #2– Rap

Listen to Stereo Hearts by Gym Class Heroes. Listen to the first few piano chords. And how they are played. How with every strike of the chord comes a strike of the heart. How each strike sends thrills down my spine. Then the voice of the rapper. Rapping to the beat. The voice, it crackles, like fire, and it warms me. But the beat is also moving me; I’m bobbing my head up and down. Then Adam Levine’s voice, perfect, pristine, but moving. The tune brings me on a roller coaster. It’s not speaking to my intellect, it’s speaking to something deeper. It’s speaking to more than my emotions, it’s speaking to more than my feelings, it’s speaking to my being. To me. To my very existence.

That’s what I feel when I hear music. It’s alive. People think rap is some random cussing and swearing, but no, it’s poetry, but with a beat. People think pop is just some mainstream shit with no value. But no, it’s an art, that gives out a message, no matter how stupid it may seem. I do admit, a lot of people take music for granted. I asked many people why they like “Monster” by Eminem and they say, oh, it sounds cool. It’s as if people nowadays listen to music for some immediate gratification of some sort, and that’s all. Yet, they miss out on what the song is really about– it’s more than just sounding great, it’s about conveying the emotions of a person with hallucinations and suffering from mental illnesses. There’s an inner beast he’s trying to deal with, that he has to compromise with. That itself is what gives value to music.

Before, though, I only listened to music for the pure superficiality of it. I listened to classical because it simply made  me jump up and down, or mainstream pop because it was cool. I saw music as simply music. Just a nice treat for the ears. I remember just listening to “Call Me Maybe” over and over and over, because it simply was, well, awesome-sounding. All that changed, though, with my depression. I started ranting often, about I hated myself, about why this world was so messed up, but then maybe I was messed up for thinking the world was messed up, then ended up cursing at myself, and it went like that over and over in my head. Rant, rant, rant, it was all I did.

Then one of my other depressed friends re-introduced me to Eminem. I had listened to Eminem before and I hated it; it didn’t sound great like Bruno Mars or Kelly Clarkson. It had a rock-genre, harsh, feeling to it, and because it didn’t sound great, I immediately dismissed it. But when I listened to it again, I was shocked. It was just like my ranting, and the message behind his songs I began to see for the first time. They weren’t stupid dilly-dally love bs like “Call Me Maybe,” but dark, melancholy messages that resonated deeply with me in my depression.


One of the first songs I heard from Eminem is “When I’m Gone”. It starts off with a ringy tone, with children laughing in the background, kinda innocent. Then it goes straight into a heavy, dark beat, as if all that died. Starts off with about a dad, how he loves her girl so much, but yet, he ignores her, tells her girl “Sorry, daddy’s busy.” Then the dad is suddenly on a stage, and he’s rapping, and he’s getting praise, then he suddenly sees his girl, his girl is like “Daddy, its me, help mommy, her wrists are bleedin’,But baby we’re in Sweden How did you get to Sweden?
“I followed you daddy/You told me that you weren’t leavin’/You lied to me dad, and now you made mommy sad.” Then the girl ditches the dad, and then the dad realizes he’s a bitch, and then he gets sad, then then my favorite image: “How could it be, that the curtain is closin’ on me/I turn around, find a gun on the ground/Cock it, put it to my brain, scream Die Shady! And pop it/The sky darkens, my life flashes/The plane that I was supposed to be on, crashes, and burns to ashes.” And after he dies, he then sees his daughter, and kisses her, and tell he’s sorry.

Not just the storyline itself but the way Eminem raps reinforces this feeling of sadness that I felt, the way the world was being torn apart around me, and I had made the biggest mistake of my life, and that it was too late to change anything. And then the way he raps the chorus– it’s like a sweet motherly tone, saying, it’s ok, go die, don’t feel sad, because I’m still happy.

But I’m getting off track (I’m writing this in Starbucks so it’s hard to focus). The point is, I want to be a rapper. Or a singer. People think I’m joking, they say, face the facts, you ain’t black, you can’t rap. But I will one day. Because nothing, not even the fact that I sing and rap horribly now, will stop me from reaching that goal. To me, music is another way for my words to come alive and take shape. It’s a way for me to cope with my feelings. I’ve written a lot of rap lyrics already, but one day, after I take some vocal and rapping lessons, I’m gonna start rapping those lyrics and topping the charts.

Ok, I’m probably dreaming too much again. But when I dream my dreams, a fire forms within, fueling, consuming, perspiring, bleeding like the ink from a pen. and I watch it bleed onto blank white paper, but the words that it bleeds reach the heights of skyscrapers. And I’ll climb that skyscraper and be at the top, and say, hey y’all, those who said I couldn’t do it,just fucking stop. and look at me, I’m up here, I rapped my way from the bottom, and now I’m in the air. this is my fucking kingdom.


The Real Reason Behind Low Voter Turnout

Recently, politicians across America have been yelling out a crisis– the lack of voter turnout, especially among the younger generation. As each year passes, the percentage of citizens who vote seems to be decreasing and decreasing. In March 2015, the voter turnout for Los Angeles’s municipal elections was only a dismal 8.6%. This is especially troubling for a democracy.

Politicians and analysts point out to various sources to blame. Some blame the bickering partisanship of politics that turn people off. Others say that voters don’t feel their votes have an effect. Many simply say the younger generation is simply lazy. All of this may be true, but lack of voter enthusiasm  isn’t the problem. It is simply a result of a bigger crisis our nation should be yelling– we, especially the youth, are not represented.

Just compare Congress to the general population. Women are 50.8% of the population; they make up only around 20% of Congress. Seventeen percent of the population is Latino; only 7% of Congress is Latino. These among many other discrepancies show under-representation, not representation, in the US.

Courtesy to

Left: What Congress Is Today; Right: If Congress accurately reflected the US population. Notice the big discrepancies. Creds to

As a result, why would my friend, an Asian-American teenager, want to take his concerns around an organization of mostly white males? Most wouldn’t. Why would women even want to vote, if all decisions regarding women such as abortion are going to be decided by an 80% male Congress? More relevant, why would teens and adolescents follow politics and vote if a majority of their issues are being voted by predominantly older legislators?

I’d like to point out a startling statistic I just read from the LA Times: funding for schools have been cut so drastically that even for school meals, there isn’t enough funding– only 16 cents for each lunch and 27 cents for each breakfast is spent. Why such measures? Don’t they recognize the importance of good meals? Yes, they do, but since students under college can’t vote, no they don’t. Essentially, most politicians don’t accurately represent for the sake of representing; they only do so to garner the votes. If minors were given the right to vote, watch how much more the government would fund school meals.

jeremy lin 300 The real reason behind low voter turnout

Jeremy Lin. Creds to People Magazine.

So, how does one solve this issue of low voter turnout? The key to increasing enthusiasm can be found in Linsanity. Personally, I never followed the National Basketball Association (NBA) games. To me, they were games relegated to mostly African-American/ white gods such as Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. Basketball never turned my head, until I heard about Linsanity. That a young Asian American from California, just like me, was making headlines in basketball got me watching. It got me and other previously disinterested Asian-Americans (and Asians) all stuck up into the NBA. It was because we Asians saw ourselves up there, embodied by Jeremy Lin. As a result, even though Lin is now not faring well, I still follow NBA games.

This notion holds true with voting. Black voter turnout increased tremendously with the running of Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections. Similarly, if the government has a more accurate representation across racial, gender, and cultural lines, there will be much more interest in voting and politics. The key, though, is not that this will increase voter turnout. What matters is that it will reflect the democratic republic that our Founding Fathers envisioned– where the government truly represents the people.

The Girl With The Voice

She was there, Sitting, Looking down,
Her hair flowing across her face,
She sees me sit down in front of her,
She looks up, Smiles
Holds out her beautiful baby hands,
Offers me a black tie between the tips of her fairy fingers,
I handed her a shiny quarter,
My sense sacrificed,
And I bite into the apple, its juices streaming down my chin.

And she spoke words that
Slithered their reflective skin
Around my ears
Like a cool breeze in the middle of a summer day
But soft, warm, and mellow,
Breathing the air into my lungs,
Clear crystalline water fills my chest.

And that voice
Is dripping with honey,
Melding with sweet warm milk,
Into a river of milk and honey
That leads me into the land of Canaan.
And my boat capsizes,
And I drown in this beautiful liquid of sugar and warmth.

And I wash ashore
Onto her smile, Into a garden of daisies
Under the warm shining sun,
So I pluck the most beautiful of them all
And I hold it close up to my nose
And I breathe….

Her aroma lures me in,
Her body telling how she loves me,
Her sound, seductive, beckoning me to come
The hole in the earth opened up once again
And the gold revealed I fell.

But…. you know what she did to me? You know what happened? What, she, she did to me?
She took me, got a knife,
Carved my breast out, and my heart,
My aching heart, exposed, vulnerable, threatened,
And she gouged it
Like a man gouging his eyeballs out because he’s too afraid
Too afraid to see the truth
That maybe, all he did , the kingdom he inherited,
The wife he married, the children he bore,
Was a lie.
A freaking lie, so I
Too scared, crushed my own heart.
So she couldn’t.

Suicide is the only form of relief when it comes to love.

But everytime I look back at her
She seems to get farther and farther.
As if a dream is slowly floating away
And I can only admire….

That Kid

I remember walking home from school one day, and I saw this kid. A kid– not a typical high school teenager walking with swag and backpack on, but a different type of teenager. He was shuffling, to God knows where, with glasses all the way down to the tip of his nose, with his humongous backpack hanging from one arm. Just shuffling like a penguin. And as he shuffled past me, my eyes followed him.

As my eyes followed him, I thought. What if I were him? What if I had that same ignorance of how people viewed me as weird and different? Wouldn’t I be free? Wouldn’t I be unrestrained by the chains of society? So I looked on as he shuffled with a mix of admiration and envy.

But then I remembered. I remembered how when I was little, I was weird, hyper, and uncaring. I remember that kid, when he first went into that restroom, how he pulled down his pants all the way to his shoes at the urinal, and how all the little classmate boys would laugh at him. And he would stare at them with questioning eyes and wonder what was wrong. And when he saw what the other big boys were doing, he copied them, but he never felt no shame for what he did.

That kid, who would always joke around in class, even during the tests. The more the teacher said hush, the louder he talked and the funnier he joked. All to impress a girl next to him. I can’t believe I was already falling for girls since kindergarten.

That kid, who thought everybody laughed with him, but in reality they laughed at him. That he was the class clown. But he never knew. He thought, why, the whole school is my friend! That kid, who wet his pants in kindergarten, first, and second grade, three years in a row. The weird kid who pees his own pants. But he never thought his friend would think him no wrong. That kid, just a Charlie. Even the teacher suggested to his parents he go to special ed.

But like Charlie, he matured. It was just a late maturity. And he realized that it’s a cruel world out there. That all his friends weren’t real friends. His innocent outlook at life gave way to a mistrust. The fact is, people are two-faced. One day he’s your best buddy; the next day he’s gonna backstab you.

But like what? This guy was just in 2nd grade. He didn’t care much; all he wanted to do was play and have fun.

Fast forward to middle school, and you know what I see? A suddenly transformed student, working hard on all his classwork, acing all his tests, making a name for himself. No more class clown. This kid’s a genius, they all say. The top of the top. Dam, he’s got potential, he’s got future. And the kid bought into it, and he smiled. Outside, he didn’t say much, but inside, he was bathing in praise.

But in return for that praise he got no friends. Except for one. He was a golfer, and he was in the grade higher. And everyday after school, that kid would meet with him in an underground classroom and all alone, just the two of them, would philosophize. About chess, math, life, speech, everything there was to know. It was Plato and Aristotle once again, in the streets of Greece, singing hymns of wisdom to each other. And it was in these hymns that the little kid started thinking ever more ferociously and ever more actively.

From that thinking, the kid gained an outlook on life– that the meaning of life was to pursue intellectual wisdom. So he climbed that ladder, and up and up he went, and right when he was about to reach the top, he realized he was a fool the whole time. And his hands slipped, and he fell all the way down.

To a hole. A hole in his heart.  I see a kid, sitting there, near a dumpster late during the day, eating his own sandwich, just staring at the trash around him. Sometimes, it rained, and if so, he would look up at the rain and feel it meander down his own face like the blood from his heart. And he’d watch how the sun was covered up by those dark, gray clouds. But no matter. In his eyes, the sun was gray, too.

I see a human being drowning in the water of his own mind, in a sea of alcohol he was drunk on. I see a kid, walking alone in the dark, the passing cars shining their lights on him and then disappearing, and how the kid looked up at the sky for stars. But there were no stars.

I see the kid, trying out for track team. He sees all his teammates jump high, lift weights, throw heavy balls, sprint, do anything. And all the kid can do is just stare. He can’t even lift the bar. He can’t even throw the ball. He can’t jump shit. He can’t do nothing. Pathetic. Hopeless.

And that kid was dying. He was succumbing to this cancer inside, that was feeding itself over and over and over. And the only ailment he found was the pen.

And so I looked at the shuffling kid, shuffling across the traffic light. And that kid got run over by a car. Maybe I dream, but I know it’s truth. Cuz I saw that bloodied body somewhere, arms torn up, legs cut off, brain smashed, heart gone. Yes, I’ve met that kid somewhere. I’ve met that kid.