Not In Kansas Anymore

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My favorite pastime is a tie between reading, gaming, and watching TV.  This isn’t due to laziness or nerdy-ness (so I like to think).  The reason I can’t choose just one of them is because they are all inherently the same; they are all forms of storytelling, and I love anything with a good story.

Stories are, at least to me, a form of travel.  When you are immersed in a truly fantastic story, it feels as if you are actually there with the characters.  You feel as they feel: longing for home after they’ve set out on their adventure, fear for the task ahead and the safety of those around them, happiness when they’ve successfully captured the heart of their loved one, and the exhilaration during flight or fight.  You can feel the ocean breeze as it caresses your face or the sweat dripping down your face from the Saharan heat. I have been all around the world on more adventures than one could possibly live in a single lifetime.  I have roamed the Amazons, climbed the Rockies, trekked across the Indies, and even flown across the skies.  I have seen worlds that are not a part of our universe.  I have battled dragons, saved weeping maidens, caught criminals, solved puzzles and riddles, and so much more.

Stories also teach valuable lessons. Protagonists usually must make difficult desicions on moral and ethical dilemmas.  As the reader, you also must make a decision.  Did the protagonist make the right choice?  What would I have done if I were faced with the same dilemma?  The process of considering and reviewing your own morals and ethics allows for you to grow as a person.  And the issues faced in stories are seen in everyday life, even if it is on a lesser scale.  I may never have to decide whether I want to risk my life for the survival of my kingdom, but I might one day have to decide whether I should defend a person being bullied even though it could have a negative impact on my social standing.  Although some, if not most, stories fixate on only the protagonist’s view of a conflict, the most invigorating and enjoyable stories are the ones that require you to consider all sides of the conflict.  This is important when trying to make intelligent desicions.  It may seem like the Wicked Witch of the West was purely evil, but in the novel Wicked by Gregory Mcguire, you are shown her intents and purposes that lead her to be known as “wicked.”  Was she truly evil or was she a revolutionary attempting to do good? 

There is a story out there for everyone, and there is always something to gain from them.  And willingness to delve deeper into a storyline will always achieve a greater return.

Today I Want To Be

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Makeup is a widely disputed topic. Many believe that it is merely a misogynistic attempt at making women feel ashamed of their natural selves. It is also thought of as a way for giant corporations such as L’Oreal to financially abuse women. Though these points are valid and noteworthy, there are other sides to makeup that are often overlooked. There are many different uses for makeup; it is a form of art and a way to express yourself.

The most commonly known and used method is beautification, sometimes seen as the hiding of one’s flaws.  This is useful for those of us with busy work and/or social lives because it is hard to seem professional with bags underneath their eyes from a long night of partying (or in my case, gaming).  However, this beautification process does have its drawbacks: women (and some men) now believe that it is necessary to “perfect” themselves at all times.  This belief is cause to many insecurities that women hold about their appearances, especially among the impressionable youth.  This is why it is important to be wary of the way makeup is portrayed by the media, but it is not a reason to completely shun it.

Paintings are considered art, and what is makeup besides paint for your face?  Makeup artists are called artists because of what they do; they create momentary works of art.  Most people think of makeup artists as those people who stand behind mall counters, coercing you to stop for a makeover in order to sell products.  It is easy to forget that the pirates or the Klingons on your television screen don’t actually look like that in real life.  Those characters are created by artists using makeup.  Isn’t that amazing?  You can turn a human being into an anything!  Makeup is paint for the canvas that is our bodies.

My personal favorite use of makeup is that transformative process.  Makeup is, or at least should be, primarily a form of expression.  Using different products, colors, techniques, etc. allows people to completely change their persona when desired.  And before you think that this desire is based upon insecurities, note this: people feel differently at different times.  Normally, I wear little to no makeup at all, but when I feel especially creative, I like to show this through use of dramatic colors and techniques that may not commonly be referred to as “beautiful.”  I am able to portray myself the way I see myself.  Because in the end, it doesn’t matter what other people think of you as long as you are being who you want to be.

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(Censored for all those sensitive eyes)

“You Said You Wanted A…What?”

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Growing up in a mixed race family has many challenges.  Like many interracial couples, my white, all-American father met my Korean mother while he was in the military.  She spoke minimal English at best and knew nothing about the American lifestyle.  Considering that I never learned how to speak or understand Korean and had a predominantly white upbringing, I understood remarkably little about her.  This would be the cause of the turmoil I faced throughout most of my life.

From an early age, I had to translate her terribly broken English to everyone she spoke to.  Whenever we pulled into a drive-thru restaurant, my mom would place the order and I would wait for the employee’s inevitable confusion.  “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” “Ma’am, I can’t understand you.” “You said you wanted a…what?” Back and forth until both parties started to get frustrated.  Finally, embarrassed, I would lean over my mother and shout out the order.  Never the one to be phased, my mother would go on as if nothing ever happened.  I, on the other hand, would press my palms to my face and hide.

As I got a bit older, I realized that it wasn’t the end of the world to have to translate for my mother.  The end of the world was actually the fact that I had to excuse her boorish manners or lack thereof.  My mom was a prime example of the post Korean War attitude: hurry, hurry, hurry.  She never had time to wait to hold doors open for other people.  There wasn’t enough time in a day to remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? And who had the time to slowly and quietly chew their food?  Smack. Smack. Smack.  With each wet smack, my spine would crawl.  Fortunately for her, I, overflowing with good manners, was always right behind her to make up for her brutish ways.

In the end, however, I learned that the hardest thing about being my mother’s daughter is the language barrier between us. Our inability to properly communicate with each other lead to much discord.  We fought constantly; very few conversations ended civilly.  Neither one of us knew how to stop because neither one of us knew what the other person was actually saying.  The confusion lead to anger and that anger lead to resentment.  After I moved out, we rarely spoke.  Fortunately, the desire to bridge the gap that lay between us grew as I slowly matured.  I reached out to her, and she readily accepted the olive branch.  We continue to work on rebuilding our relationship today, ironing out the kinks left behind by the language barrier.

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I Don’t Like You, Whoever You Are

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First impressions can be a matter of life or death.

Based off of that very first sentence, there are a multitude of conclusions that can be made about me.  Perhaps you now believe that I’m over dramatic or that I’m pessimistic.  Maybe you think that I feel as if I’ve been snubbed by my peers or that I’m a contestant in a beauty pageant.  Or it could be that I, like many college students, am anxious about job interviews.  Whether you know it or not, you are judging everyone and everything from the moment he or it is introduced to you.  And this judgment does not wait for a physical introduction; it starts even when you hear about something in passing.

For example, a new movie has just been released.  You know nothing about it and have never given it a single thought.  Then as you’re sitting in the hair salon or working out at the gym, you overhear someone say that “X”, the movie that was just released, is absolutely incredible!  Immediately, you have gained an opinion of that film.  Regardless of how insignificant of an increase it is, you now have a positive impression of it.  The same thing happens when the subject is a person.  Unfortunately, this means that we can have little to no control over how people will perceive us.

When you are the one whom is being assessed, you only have limited power to sway the judge.  Even if you are dressed meticulously by your own standards, the person assessing you could have different tastes.  If he/she has heard negative things about you or your character, then it might not matter if you are the most charming person imaginable; they might hold to their first impressions and dislike you anyway.  First impressions are known as lasting impressions because of how strong their holds are.  And this power of accidental persuasion follows each and every one of us at all times.

Everything that you say can have an impact, positive or negative, on another person’s life.  This includes what is posted on social media.  People, especially the young, thoughtlessly post things online that they would not normally want to be seen.  I personally have had to ask friends to delete photos that I deemed inappropriate for the public eye.  Because as flattering as I am when I’m splayed out on the floor with a beer in my hand, my future employer might be strange enough to disagree.  What a werido, right?

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Dog With A Blog

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Domesticated dogs are well known to be “man’s best friend.” They are friendly and loyal, they greet us at the door, they play with us when we are bored, they protect us when we are in danger, and they comfort us when we are sad.  No other animal has been so capable of integrating themselves into a person’s life.  What allows them to do so?  What is it that separates dogs from the rest?

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To truly understand, we must look at their history.  Domesticated dogs have relied on mankind for centuries.  It began when wolves started scavenging for humans’ scraps.  This slowly lead to a more docile relationship between those wolves and people.  Much later, after people discovered dogs’ usefulness, they were trained to help people with everyday needs and tasks.  They were trained to be hunters, guardians, herders, and eventually lapdogs and family pets. This ensured their species’s survival but not the individual’s.  The dogs who were more capable of understanding us were the ones who were most likely to be fed and sheltered.  Thus, over time, they learned how to read human facial expressions.

Unlike other types of animals, dogs can read both our body language as well as our facial expressions.  This means that they can almost instantaneously know what mood someone is in (sometimes even before we have comprehended it ourselves) and know how to act accordingly.  This meant that if a dog’s owner was in a nasty mood, it knew to stay away and not be obtrusive.  If its owner felt frightened, it knew to be on the alert.  This level of communication allowed for not only coexistence to be possible but the amount of companionship that we feel today.

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Nowadays, dogs are primarily used as family pets and are considered to be our friends.  Most people no longer need them to hunt down game or herd cattle.  Even so, people continue to seek the company of dogs due to our nurturing instincts and overwhelming desire for companionship.  The communicative skill that they developed continues to establish their place in a world that has been overtaken by mankind.

FIFA 2014

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I have never been a sports fan.  I don’t find any enjoyment watching one player smashing into another or trying to figure out why people hate the referee so much.  So you can understand my surprise when I discovered that FIFA’s World Cup is incredibly entertaining.

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It’s not the actual sport of soccer (or football if you’re from any other part of the world) that I enjoy watching the most; the most interesting things about these games are the players and coaches themselves as well as the crowds.  Because this is a worldwide tournament, players and fans alike come to these games with a palpable nationalism in their spirits.  They yearn to bring glory to their country.  This can be seen and felt with every pass, block, goal, foul, and injury whether it’s real or fake. The cheers of the crowd thunder when their team is completely set up for an amazing shot, oftentimes followed by the cries of glee and encouragement from the opposing crowd when the shot is expertly blocked by the goalie.  The players’ faces of pain and anguish clearly depicting the thought that they let their country down by missing that goal.  The coach’s stern looks of outrage and frustration cut from the sidelines.  Or on a brighter note, when the team does make the goal, the players dance and jump and whoop with joy with the crowd mimicking them.

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And that’s just what is on the TV.  If you go to a pub or bar to watch the games, then you can be assured that you will be joined by a mass of energized fans, especially if your own country is playing (Go America!).  It is a very communal process, supporting a sports team.  Everyone cheers together, laughs together, cries together, etc.  The atmosphere changes so dramatically with every point, whether it be for better or worse.  But that is what’s fun about it all — everything is a shared experience.  Even if your team loses, there are others around you to share your frustrations with.  Thankfully, I did not have to deal with that sort melancholy because the US of A blew Ghana away!  I suppose even I was infected by the nationalism bug.