Building A Better Geek

Last week, I got the opportunity to interview one of my favorite professors on film for the first project in my Film Genres class. Professor Brett Rogers, author of Classical Traditions in Science Fiction and associate professor of Classics here at Puget Sound, gave me and my project partner Nate some insight into the study of classical receptions. We asked him to talk about an article he wrote for his book in which he discusses the move Alien Resurrection and Homer’s Odyssey. There was a time limit for the project (just under three minutes), so ideally it would have included a lot more! But time limit aside, it was a pretty cool experience.

Here’s the completed video!


To the President Elect

Dear President Elect,
We are so excited to meet you in just a few days, and to welcome you to this community. We are excited to work alongside you as Puget Sound grows and evolves.

Before we get acquainted, I thought it might be nice for you to hear a little bit more about the students which it will be your duty to lead so very soon.

So, some things to know about Loggers:

1) Loggers will ask hard questions, sometimes to you.
We want this school to be the best, most inclusive space it can be. We want to be rigorous and supportive, challenging and kind. We will ask you to help us get there. We will work hard, and we will ask the same of you. We cannot and will not stand back in the face of any and all injustice, and we ask that you take our hands and join us in the journey to make Puget Sound–and beyond–an equitable and progressive place.

2) Loggers are passionate, and we will offer our passions to you.
We will open our club meetings, our presentations, our banquets, our concerts to you, and we will sincerely invite you to attend, so that you can see what makes us happy. You’ll see some interesting things, I promise.

3) Loggers love the Pacific Northwest, and we hope you will love it alongside us
We are immeasurably lucky to live in this beautiful place, with our mama mountain high above us and the Sound bookending our city. We love to explore–to hike, backpack, kayak and so much more–and we hope you’ll appreciate our home as much as we do

4) Loggers value our city, and we hope you will engage with it as we do.
Tacoma is fascinating and beautiful and diverse and worth exploring, and we enjoy getting off our campus and being a part of this city. We think you will too, and we hope it will be a part of your work here to bring community members onto campus and vice versa.

We so look forward to meeting you. You’ve got almost 3000 hardworking, smart, engaged students, plus an amazing faculty and staff, looking forward to working alongside you.

See you soon.

Best,

A Logger <3

My Box of Stuff

On my desk, there is a box with two small glass jars, a bunch of envelopes and a collection of other things. This is my box of memorabilia. I’m a really sentimental person, so I’ve kept as many cards, tickets, notes and other small tokens as possible to hold onto as I go through life. I actually have another box full of stuff at home, but I left it behind because I didn’t want to risk losing everything at once.

I keep this box because they all represent different aspects of my life, both past and present. I simply don’t want to forget them.

Here are some of the things in the box:

  • This is the ticket to the first rave (and concert) I ever went to. I remember bouncing with excitement in class, I just couldn’t wait to see my favorite artists at the time. And it was amazing. I just couldn’t stop smiling through the entire performance. Afterwards, I had some of the best Thai food ever at 2AM at some late night Thai place in downtown San Francisco. I won’t ever forget this night.IMG_6061
  • I got this “coupon” last summer at my summer job. My boss started to give out boxes with random prizes in them at the end of the work week to end the weekend right and reward us for our hard work. The prizes ranged from cash, extra break time (this was a summer camp, so any second away from the kids were a godsend) and a free lunch delivery from my boss. I never cashed this in and there isn’t an expiration date… I wonder…

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  • These wristbands are from these spirit competitions that my high school put on every semester. These competitions were a battle of a classes, seeing who could win the most games and perform the best skits and dances. They are honestly some of the best memories of my life.

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  • I went to Bumbershoot for the first time after the first week of classes last Fall. It was the first festival I ever went to and it was such a fun time. I got to see a dance competition, listen to some artists I never had heard before and meet some interesting people while I stood in line. The highlight of this was getting to see Zedd, one of my favorite artists right now.

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  • Last summer, I got into a car accident. Seeing as work was a 45 minute drive away, I couldn’t ask my parents to take me every morning. So I started to take the train to and from work. It was my first time taking public transit by myself. While I never saw or met anyone interesting because I was usually napping, it was still a nice time.

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  • Finally, here are my bids from Rush Week. That week was a really fun time and if I could have, I would have picked both Fraternities.

IMG_6066So there’s my list of junk/sentimental stuff. What are yours? What meaning do they hold for you?

10 Books to Read During the Semester

It can be hard to read for fun during the semester, what with school, work, and extracurricular tasks. With this difficulty in mind, here are ten books that, for one reason or another, are the perfect books to read in the free moments that you have this semester.

  1. Nazi Literature in the Americas, Roberto Bolaño
    • This imaginative (fake) encyclopedia features short profiles of imaginary pan-American writers, detailing their lives and notable works. The final entry, which is also the longest, became the basis for Bolaño’s later novel Distant Star, and the “Epilogue for Monsters” is a useful index of the breadth and depth of Bolaño’s vision.
  2. Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges
    • The shortness of the stories, parables, and essays in this collection makes it easy to read between classes. However, Borges’s compression belies the cerebral nature of the pieces, which, I urge, should not be taken lightly. The perfect book for the millennial “intellectual.” Also, a college student reading Borges is automatically cool.
  3. Atlas of Remote Islands, Judith Schalansky
    • The minimalism of Schalansky’s illustrations rival the lightness of her annotations, which capture enough of each island’s stories to entice the imagination, yet which never indulge the reader—a good thing, considering the time that you could lose reading about each of Schalansky’s islands. Schalansky’s Atlas also comes in a “pocket” version, making it both portable and super hip for the on-the-go college student.
  4. Please Look After Mom, Shin Kyung-Sook
    • A longer work on this list, though not overlong at 272 pages, Please Look After Mom is a fluid read, presented in five easily digestible sections with an exciting 2nd-person narration. The writing is affective without being affected and does not suffer from the artificialness of works in translation.
  5. Citizen, Claudia Rankine
    • Aside from the fact that you, as a culturally-conscious member of an often dubiously-conscious society, should read this winner of the National Book Award for Poetry, Citizen is slim enough to slip between your planner and your calculus textbook—though I’m guessing that you won’t be tucking this one away until you’ve finished it.
  6. Night, Dawn, Day, Elie Wiesel
    • Though they’re not the happiest, you’ll nonetheless breeze through these books, if only because of their innate gravity and propulsive force. Night, in particular, will project you, as if you were weightless, through to final sentence of the trio, from the darkness of night to the equal darkness of a tepid sun. (Gross. Did I really just write that sentence?)
  7. Saturday, Ian McEwan
    • Saturday takes place over the course of one day, which, by a conservative estimate, is the longest it will take you to finish this well-paced novel. It also features prose from one of the cleanest and graceful stylists writing today. McEwan’s command of a foreign medical language is as natural, and as trenchant, as if it were his own.
  8. This is How You Lose Her, Junot Díaz
    • I had the privilege of attending a lecture that Díaz gave at the university in 2013. His prose maps perfectly onto his personality, though this comes across of its own accord in the short stories of this collection. Light, but never insubstantial, reading for the busybody college student.
  9. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
    • Never as simple or as one-dimensional as its detractors make it out to be, The Old Man and the Sea is a literary goldmine. Themes ripe for interpretation include: individualism, symbiosis, the feminization of the sea (contrast with the gendering of the sea in Moby-Dick), the artistic/creative process, and the allusive co-termination of religion and the secular. And, of course, the lions on the beach.
  10. Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino
    • A petite book, consisting of visionary descriptions of various cities by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan, Invisible Cities is as much about language and meaning as it is about cities, and then some.

Art Major Life: Linocut

Just before fall break, I finished my second printmaking project of the year. I’ve done some work with relief printmaking before and wanted to experiment a little bit more, so for this project I worked with speedy-cut (a rubber-like substance perfect for carving) on a medium scale. I chose to do a monoprint series that addressed the theme of femininity. I’m very interested in the classics (I would be a double major if I had time for the language requirement!), so I worked with figures from Greek mythology. In particular, I chose to represent two women of Ancient Greek mythology that represent different sides of femininity for me: Persephone and Artemis.

My carved and inked plate of Artemis with my first test print

My carved and inked plate of Artemis with my first test print

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An Argument for Poetry

I have a clear memory of six years old, sitting cross-legged on the floor in my classroom, cutting out the pieces to the acrostic poem I had written a few days before. There was a precision to my gluing, a desire to get the lines exactly right. I forgot about it for years, let the memory drift to the back corners of my brain. This poem, I suppose, is the first evidence I have of poetry in my life.


Here the the actual text from the poem I wrote to my mom in second grade:

Imagining is great!

Ladies are good.
Observe
Violence
Easy

Yarn is fun!
Object are great!
Unbelievable

have a Marry day!
Outlook
Mind

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOX
LOVE,
TALENA


From there, my love of poetry progressed: cataloged in a Mother’s Day poem I wrote in fifth grade, typed up in Comic Sans, used the wrong your/you’re and seventh grade, walking through the concrete hallways reciting “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe from memory. I continued to dabble in poetry throughout high school, writing about this and that. In the margins of my calculus notes there are dashes of phrases, half-written poems that someday I’d get back to.

It’s important to study literature, because it gives a deeper insight to meanings. Analyzing English gives perspective of the surrounding world, a way to perceive emotions in a different way. In turn, poetry is an extension of this. It falls into the gap, between the universal and the personal. Meaning shifts from person to person, experience to experience, but there’s nearly always something someone can connect to.

For me, poetry is a way to express emotions. I let it center around the words I never say, the memories that come back, from time to time. Poetry is a creative way to capture an experience and I cannot stress how important I think that is.

So write. Write bad poetry, good poetry. Things that (don’t) rhyme, things with rhythm. Make up a story, make up an experience. Practice enjambment, practice and fail and succeed and know that it’s okay. Let yourself relive that memory when it comes back. Write it down so it’s raw and real and important, because it matters.


Here is an example of a poem I wrote more recently, as a way to show that my poetry has at least slightly improved since second grade:

School Picture Day, 2002

Six-year-old me didn’t yet have the world on her shoulders,
but she had an atlas brain. Curly red hair forming ringlets
around an unfreckled face. Back when tears were easy to spring
to the surface and I still had an underbite smile. Career option:
astronaut princess and Grandma taught me cross-stitch.
The Magic Tree House series, scraped knees, Girl Scout
uniform, and I didn’t know what headache meant. Tracing
the alphabet over and over on sunny days and I could see the purple
slide through the chain-link fence and windows.

I ate kiwis until my mouth puckered shut and I’d stretch my lips
into a grin, stand in line waiting to go into class with a heavy
metal song stuck in my head because Dad played his
music loud and would sing with the windows rolled down,
elbow resting against the door, hand hitting roof
edge with every guitar strum. Stand in line in a dark green
velvet dress tucking pistachio shells into its lace trim

because the future was undefined, for six-year-old me.

Happy Lunar New Year

As a Chinese-American I’ve celebrated the lunar new year, or in my personal case Chinese New Year every year in some manner. My family has our own ways of celebrating, by eating mooncake from Eastern Bakery (in San Francisco, which we always ship to Hawaii because it’s the best!), making and eating gau (chinese mochi, no dates for us those are nasty), other treats such as almond cookies (my dad’s fave!) and peanut sticky candy and a full chinese family dinner. Since this is my third year at the University of Puget Sound, it’s also my third year without many of these traditions my family has. And while that’s sad it’s also a reality check, when I graduate I probably won’t be moving home and continuing life as I did for the first 18 years of my life. I’ll be on my own, making friends and community, starting my own cultural traditions and life. But thats a thought to continue in one and a half years (when I graduate).

For now, the sub and DCS respect and support the lunar new year tradition along with other cultural signifigant events and dates with special dishes. For this year they prepared good luck rice cake soup, cucumber kimchee and fortune cookies. While these aren’t the traditions I’m famililar with they may be home-y and comforting to others who also celebrate the Lunar New Year such as Koreans, Vietnamese, Chinese and other east asian countries that follow the lunar calendar. It’s a reminder that people celebrate their culture differently everywhere and it’s adapted and grown over time beyond the countries they originated in, which is a really cool thing to think about.

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For me, celebrating Chinese New Year away from home means awaiting goodies from my other Chinese (and from Hawaii) friends, some of whom made almond cookies, others who their grandma (or in cantonese, po-po) sent up homemade gau to enjoy. This year some friends and I decided to participate in the Tacoma tradition of hunting for monkeyshines. 13th years ago a group of local glass-blowing artists were feeling gloomy as the winter weather can make us feel and decided to spread some light and love in the spirit of the chinese new year and created glass baubles as cups, ornaments, balls, medallions and more all stamped with the zodiac (in that year the monkey) and hid them all over Tacoma. Flash-forward to the present, many people of Tacoma are out and about early (like 4am early) on Chinese New Year to find these hidden monkeyshines (named after the first zodiac year and the shine of the glass) all around Tacoma in front yards, Old Town, the waterfront (and actually in the water!), parks, bushes, anywhere you could think to spread the good spirit and excitement. When my friends and I ventured out we ran into other young 20-year old people, families with children, adults, elderly people and more all wandering Tacoma in the dark with flashlights looking for these magical treats. While we didn’t find anything yesterday morning, we definitely bonded over the excitement, searching, cold weather (mid-30s), and meeting other searchers. And although we only found a few trinkets and marbles, we are even more excited and determined to find monkeyshines next year!

monkeyshines

Happy Lunar New Year! Gong Hey Fat Choi!

Chasing ideas

You’re just sitting there when the idea pops in your head. It’s a great idea. Maybe you hit the wall when writing a paper and this idea could get you going again. Maybe it’s greatest invention of mankind. Maybe it’s the perfect line to use on that girl you see in Diversions all the time when you ask her out. Whatever it may be, it’s great.

But then you get distracted and lose it.

What was it again? It was something like… I mean, it was like… Wait! I had to do something with… No, that not it. It definitely wasn’t “Every student should be given a corgi when they first step onto campus”. Although that is a good idea, write that down.

We’ve all been here, having some of our greatest ideas just out of reach. What can you do?

Seriously, what can you do? I have no idea. Like, I had the greatest idea for a post for this blog and I lost it.

At least it wasn’t all bad. I got this post out of it. Although it is mostly rambling…

Now, what was that idea….

 

10 Songs Recently Played on My iPod

I know, iPod, right? So dated.

  1. “Two Lights,” Five for Fighting
    • The lyrics of this song are hard to grasp without contextual information, but with this information they are candid, without being cliché, and not so figurative as to draw attention to their poeticality. John Ondrasik’s greatest virtue remains his ability to write meaningful lyrics, especially in the void of 21st century pop. 
  2. “Bedshaped,” Keane
    • A stylistic accomplishment, “Bedshaped” is a controlled performance of lyrical depth, flawless in its delivery, with an underlying suppleness reminiscent of Coldplay. 
  3. “Fast Car,” Tracy Chapman
    • More than just a song to listen to as you’re driving down the highway at night, “Fast Car” possesses that narrative quality that songs today lack, while boasting the voice of a singular artist. 
  4. “You’re the Inspiration,” Chicago
    • Chicago is an underrated, if overselling, band, and ‘80s Chicago is, in all its sentimentality, my favorite. What makes “You’re the Inspiration” the biggest hit to come out of the period is the interplay of its voices, the balancing and counterbalancing of melody and harmony. The layering of voices gives the song depth, while Peter Cetera’s lead commands but never overshadows. 
  5. “Unwell,” Matchbox Twenty
    • How can you not love the opening motif? The transitions are seamless, and vocal artistry is hardly a problem for Rob Thomas. 
  6. “Sunny Came Home,” Shawn Colvin
    • The lyrics of “Sunny Came Home” don’t quite match the tenor of the accompaniment, resulting in a work that undermines and ironizes itself—which is the brilliance of the song. It’s also a better revenge song than Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” (nothing against Carrie). 
  7. “Chasing Cars,” Snow Patrol
    • A minimalist pop song seems like a contradiction, but “Chasing Cars” makes it work with its sensitivity to dynamic and layering, and with its sparse, haiku-like lyrics. 
  8. “Hotel California,” The Eagles
    • An effortless song in every way. Neither overdone nor underdone, “Hotel California” represents the best of ‘70s rock and claims impressive staying power. 
  9. “Drops of Jupiter,” Train
    • An example of a song with meaningful, if self-consciously grandiose, lyrics. “Drops of Jupiter” dabbles in metaphor and hyperbole, which works with the its charismatic singer and sweeping, orchestral accompaniment. The song, which recalls The Beatle’s “Hey Jude,” is more affecting for its compression (I’ve always found the postlude of “Hey Jude” protracted), its command of the metaphor, and the earnestness of its delivery, which is never less than convincing. 
  10. “What a Wonderful World,” Louis Armstrong
    • Can you argue with a classic? 

Red Flags and Teddy Bears

I have two new interviewing tips for you: do your research and know what your nervous habits are. Today, I had a job interview at the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation. Doing my research really helped me put my best foot forward. As for nervous habits…let’s just say I re-learned something about myself.

There are two good reasons for doing your research. Firstly, if you come prepared and knowledgeable about the company it shows employers that you are willing to make the effort and are serious about the job. Secondly, if you do your research, you will probably find any red flags about the company you are interviewing with. Check sites like yelp or glassdoor.com to see what current and former employees of the company have written. When I was checking out a prospective company, I found a review that said this:

“If you leave your desk for anything other than going to the bathroom, you have to send an email to everyone in the office saying how long you’ll be gone and where you’re going. Such as – ‘personal call – 3 minutes,’ ‘coffee run – 5 minutes,’ ‘stretching my legs – 2 minutes.’”

The company replied that they were addressing this policy and that it had “evolved organically.” They’re a public relations company, so I would have thought that they’d come up with a better excuse than that. Anyway, if you look at review sites you can sometimes find the little chestnuts like this before you choose to work somewhere. Exercise caution though. If a review is in all caps, it’s probably best to ignore it.

It also helps to be familiar with your nervous habits before you go into an interview. Today, for instance, I found out that when I’m nervous I start to tell a lot of jokes. This is fine as long as they’re good jokes, otherwise not so much. When my interviewer asked how my friends would describe me, I replied that a high school friend had said I was like a teddy bear with muscles. Luckily, my interviewer laughed, but it was a good thing the session ended before I got around to asking her why the chicken didn’t cross the road. Answer: Because he was chicken.

So do your research. Know thyself and thy prospective company. If you do that, you should be fine. Unless anything really terrible happens like the building catching fire or something, in which case you’re not fine—you should probably reschedule.