blog, pt. ii

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Short answer #2 - In either a video or a written post with photos, introduce us to a part of your life, house, town, etc. that you find wildly interesting.

This is my brother. His name is Ryan. He is 7.

Okay, I lied. This is my brother 0.0001% of the time.

This is a more accurate picture of him. We didn't even go to this game.

He is wildly interesting. For example, he loves Eric Clapton, but also once said he wanted to be the Jonas Brothers. Not just a Jonas Brother, no - the collective identity of the Jonas Brothers. He is a human paradox. The other night, he said something about his "jammies" (his PJs), but I misheard him and thought he said "panties." We then proceeded to come up with a plethora of combinations of adjective + "panties" which entertained us for the next half hour. Some of the ones we came up with were: "cheetah panties," "jean panties," "rubber panties," and my personal favorite - "croc panties." Where does he come up with this stuff? I have no idea. But I am currently cracking up to myself in a public library.
My brother watches sports like a 30-year-old man. He never watches one game, he instead keeps track of ESPN, Fox Sports, ABC and NBC (if applicable) as well as the scoreboards on the bottom of the ESPN screen. So when I ask, "How was the Phillies game?" He will respond "It was 6-8. And the Cardinals won, but the Red Sox lost to the Yankees, something about Michael Vick back with the Eagles, and did you hear about that Korean golfer who beat Tiger Woods?" And yet, the kid claims that he does not know how to tell time. (I know that this is a lie because he always knows when to turn on the TV to catch a game.)
Spelling has never been his forte. He used to spell "juice" "j-o-o-s."

I like to ask my brother what he wants to be when he grows up.
At age 4, his response was "A whale."
At age 6, his response was "An Animal Planet TV show host."
Now, he says, "A scientist during the week and an artist on weekends. And a tennis player on Sundays." Child, you are 7. What is wrong with you?? I once accidentally knocked his chin and he cried, " mandible!"
Aside from our uncontrollable laughter and voices (I seriously sound like a 7-year-old on the phone), Ryan and I are very different, which fascinates my mother. But he is a pretty cool cat and when he asks, "Can I be your roommate?" I wish I can say, "Yes."
Ryan, age 5, as Obi-Wan Kenobi

"Ah, screw it. Just gimme some freaking yogurt."


blog, pt. i

"Short answer #1 - In a paragraph or two, describe why you want to be an admissions blogger and what unique things you feel you'll contribute to the program.

I'll be honest here and admit that I didn't even think about going to MIT until the summer before my senior year. This is mostly because a. I didn't think I'd fit in and b. Me getting into MIT? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

My reaction to "Have you considered MIT?" Seriously.

During my college search, it got to the point where everything started blurring together and all the info sessions became indistinguishable. I heard from some people that when you get to the school, you just know that it's the one. Well, that is a load of malarkey because I did not feel that at all. Not even when I visited MIT. I didn't want to make a decision that would affect the next 4 years of my life from a "feeling" I got from a single tour or info session. (This is where talking to students helps.) When I first started reading the blogs that summer, there were 2 things that really changed my mind about MIT: the transparency of the school and the diversity of the student body. I loved that the blogs showed everything about the school, the good and the bad. Seriously, everyone knows that college isn't loafing under a picturesque tree in autumn wearing a ridiculously stylish outfit and matching scarf. I also realized that you don't have to be an evil genius to go to MIT. Now, as far as unique contributions go, here's the deal: someone once told me, "You are too normal to go to MIT." And well, yes. There are a lot of pretty non-unique things about me. I play a stringed instrument. I am a terrible driver. In fact, the only thing I hate more than driving is parking. And being tickled. (These things are funnier if you are aware of my racial heritage and my gender.) But that lady obviously did not know me very well, and I think I can be pretty unique and could offer a pretty happenin' viewpoint to the blogs.
1. I used to want to be Jeff Corwin. I wanted to be an entomologist-herpetologist-TV-show-host until fifth grade.
2. I did not know what Starcraft was until I overheard 2 of my friends (both non-Koreans) talking about it during my sophomore year. Never have I seen anyone look so appalled in my life.
3. I love where I'm from (a mid-sized town in the middle of Missouri). I like corn mazes and bluegrass music.
4. I am a self-proclaimed technopeasant, but am willing to learn. Once during a Science Olympiad event about circuits, I asked my partner why the circuit board looked so odd. We hadn't turned it over yet.
5. I do not want to study electrical engineering. Ever.
6. I like to draw. Have you noticed? I would probably put a drawing in every entry, kind of like how Yan puts pictures of ridiculously delicious-looking food in all of her entries. Or how Snively puts links in his titles. Am I starting to sound pathetic?
7. Like I said before, I didn't think of applying to MIT because I didn't think I could ever belong there. So, minimizing the cheesiness as much as possible, had it not been for the blogs, I potentially would have missed out on an awesome four years of my life (maybe more?). I can only hope that as an admissions blogger I could do the same, showing other former-Jeff-Corwin-wannabes (or other potential applicants) that it's just silly to base your opinions off of stereotypes.

Probably not the best source of information.



Monday, August 17, 2009

We need to talk about "Kevin."

(No, not the book.)

One of our last assignments in AP Lit was to list a handful of quotes that were meaningful to us and explain why. This was one of my entries... (all of my quotes were taken from Pixar movies)

“You know, once you muscle your way past the gag reflex, all kinds of possibilities open up.”
- Emile, Ratatouille (Brad Bird, screenwriter)

First semester of my senior year, I took a chemistry class at the University of Missouri. Part of this class was learning how to learn in a 500+ person lecture class. The other part of this class was my lab partner, quite possibly the most unbearable person I've had to deal with in a long time. I'll reference him as "Kevin."

Every Monday afternoon, I had to spend 3 painful hours with a pompous, stereotypically-frat-guy-ish jackass named Kevin. A lot of times, I would think to myself, "Okay, he's a good person deep down. He's doesn't actually mean the stuff he says. He's a decent person, he's just immature." I put up with him for a couple weeks. Hell, I even drove him back to his dorm after class. He told me of the girls he'd hooked up with, and when he said "I'm hardcore Catholic. I almost went into the priesthood, but I realized I liked sex too much," I restrained myself from barfing all over his face. I answered the last-night calls for help with the chemistry online quiz that was due in 10 minutes. I did the labs and told him to just copy what I'd written in my notebook.
It got to the point where I couldn’t suppress my disgust anymore -

This actually happened and my T.A. actually thought I was going to punch him. Our partnership gained a bit of notoriety amongst the class.

I stereotyped him as a lazy, chauvinistic, imbecilic frat guy. When I had to hear stories of his weekend sexcapades, I threw up in my mouth a little and cast him as a hypocritical cradle-Catholic. So after the first couple weeks of class, what did I do? I surprised myself and gave him a chance. I don't really know why. I think I was just sick of arguing. It was bizarre, I started to see someone who felt private remorse for his shortcomings, a person who sought forgiveness, but didn't really know how to go about getting it. In brief car rides, I learned that Kevin maybe wasn’t as hypocritical as I thought he was, but rather still a very young man who struggled to internally resolve his conflicts while his external environment of friends expected a guy very different from who he thought he should be. Does this mean we became BFFs? HELL NO. I bolted out of that lab room on the last day with sheer giddiness. But in retrospect, I think I more hated admitting that my original judgment of Kevin was unfair and continued to wallow in self-pity because I was so against admitting my fallacy. And it wasn’t until very recently that I started thinking that maybe – maybe – having Kevin as a lab partner wasn’t such a terrible thing. I hate it when people pre-judge me, but I realized about halfway through that I was doing that to Kevin. I also vowed to myself that I'd never compromise who I am to fit in as much as he did. I just had to muscle my way past my innate desire to barf every time I saw him in order to see this.



Saturday, August 15, 2009

The other day, I spent some quality time with the family playing some tag football (and by tag I really mean have intentions to lightly tap but actually pummel to the ground). We decided to make it parents vs. offspring (that would be me and my 7-year-old brother, Ryan), which resulted in many Dirty Bird touchdown dances from Ryan. And my mom fell. A lot. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of parental ass-whooping done by us progeny.
It was a pretty hilarious time.

There is nothing like beating almost-50-year-olds in physical activity to reaffirm how awesome you are.

On Sunday, Dad, Ryan and I moseyed on over to St. Louis to watch the third game of the Cardinals vs. the Padres. I'm not a huge baseball fan, but seeing a game in person is a lot different than seeing it on TV (the roar that surfaced when Pujols went up to bat when the bases were loaded was kind of ridiculous). The crowd, the atmosphere, the overpriced-and-ridiculously-bad-for-you-but-so-confusingly-delicious nachos, the heat, the random drunk guy sitting a few seats down from you who shouts "BOO says the crowd!" every 10 minutes... yes, this is what you miss out on at home.
Seriously, he did this every 10 minutes.

Story: When I was away in the bathroom, my dad had someone take a picture of him and my brother when the drunk guy wrapped his arm around my dad, giving him a side-man-hug and getting in the picture. Um...

It started raining during the bottom of the 6th, so they paused the game for about 20 minutes. Aforementioned drunk guy got upset and started shouting "PLAY BALL! BOO says the crowd!" repeatedly. Well, the game finally did start up again, only to be stopped by some more rain in the top of the 8th. Drunk guy started singing the Eurhythmics' "Here Comes The Rain Again." About 30 seconds later, the rain stopped. About 2 minutes later, it started again, in the form of a freaking deluge. It was 5, the game had started at 1, so we were all "aw hellz no" and left. The score was 4-5 in favor of the Padres. The Cardinals scored 3 runs in the 9th inning and won. And we missed it.

Oh, weather. You suck balls.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Planned to stay at the lab until the late afternoon, but those plans got nixed when I couldn't stand listening to another minute of Rush Limbaugh. Instead, I headed over to the public library where I read some Billy Collins and am now blogging. Our lab rents the neighboring space to an environmental studies/testing lab. Super nice folks, but one of the guys is basically deaf and feels the need to blare KFRU (local talk radio) when he's there. I can stand the Dave Ramsey Show and I've learned to block out Rush Limbaugh for the past 2 years, but it's gotten completely unbearable because of this whole health care fiasco. Some poor liberal called in, thinking he was doing some good by standing up to Rush. Too bad everything that came out of his mouth made him sound like a complete imbecile (something along the lines of "You don't like Obama because he's a n*****!"). I'm about to take a hammer to that radio the next time I hear the words "euthanasia," "libs" (his cute nickname for basically anyone who doesn't agree with him...makes me throw up in my mouth a little every time I hear him say it) or "pharms." The thing I hate the most is I love my job and I'm generally a ridiculously chipper person, but lately I've left the lab in such a foul mood because of one fucking, petty radio show. I think our lab is going to finally confront the other guys tomorrow about it.

That was a downer, so here's something to mainly cheer me up: charts and bluegrass, two of my favorite things.

(An homage to the classic Toothpaste For Dinner flowchart)
I think I know one person who loves bluegrass as much as I do, but he's in his 30's. Where are all the teenaged-twentysomething bluegrass lovers? It's freaking MISSOURI. Anyway, this is my attempt to illuminate the awesometasticness of this under-appreciated genre of music to ya'll (just kidding, I do not and will never talk like that).

You know you needed it.

Big Medicine: Fever In The South
Okay, okay. I can't say I'm a hardcore bluegrass listener. I think to be able to say you're hardcore about any kind of musical genre, you've got to be able to adopt part of that genre's "lifestyle" (I use this word with some reservation because of it's implications, but that is a separate topic which would require another blog post). Suffice it to say, Big Medicine is about as "hick" as I can go. There are also lots of "jam bands" like The String Cheese Incident and Leftover Salmon who I occasionally listen to. Word association? Rollicking.

Noam Pikelny: In The Maze
I first started listening to Noam Pikelny after listening to Punch Brothers (he's their banjo-player). I later found out that he was Bela Fleck's (Bela Fleck is arguably the world's current greatest banjo player) protege, which would explain why he's so good. The highlight of this album is the last track, "Overland." It's nice background music; I listen to this album a lot in the lab.

Chris Thile: How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
Chris Thile is probably my current favorite musician and has been for the past year. A child prodigy from California (I know, wtf), he started out on the guitar but later switched to the mandolin. He released his first album when he was 13 and most of the songs on it are original compositions. He later played in Nickel Creek and is now the "frontman" of Punch Brothers. How To Grow is definitely my favorite album on the list. Notable tracks include the cover of The Strokes' "Heart In A Cage," the cover (seriously, watch the beginning. He's makes jabs at Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers) of The White Stripes' "Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground," and "Brakeman's Blues." Thile is quoted as saying, "Everything was tracked live, and I’ve decided never to record wearing headphones again unless I absolutely have to. Wearing headphones is bullshit, because you’re in your own little world playing to a mix that no one will ever hear but you. What’s the point?" I'd say this is sort of where things start bleeding into the regions of folk and pop, or "newgrass," as it's affectionately called. Oh, and in case you were wondering about the title, it's the title of one of the tracks (another cover, this time of a Tom Brosseau song). "I got my ass kicked by the last relationship I was in. This girl just left. It created a pretty serious complex for me. I’ve always been able to talk to girls, but I’m scared of them. I just could relate to it. Like, man if I could just grow one, that would take care of a lot of problems."

Chris Thile: Not All Who Wander Are Lost
One of his earlier albums, this one features bluegrass legends like Edgar Meyer (double-bass), Jerry Douglass (dobro, he plays in Alison Krauss' band) and Bela Fleck (banjo). Not much to say about this album except that it's quite beautiful, especially with tracks like "Song For A Young Queen" and "Big Sam Thompson."

Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, Bela Fleck: Uncommon Ritual
I can't believe the recording studio didn't explode from the epic awesomeness of this super-group. "Big Country" is my favorite of the bunch, but Meyer's verion of "Zigeunerweisen" is just absurd. Listen to the original (written for violin) and then listen to his version. Good gravy.

Punch Brothers: Punch
My favorite album of 2008. The opening track, "Punch Bowl," seems like a typical bluegrass tune, but then it has bits of dissonance which foreshadow the following tracks. It's a good time, and smartly written. The next four tracks are all part of The Blind Leaving The Blind, a quintet of sorts inspired (is that the right word?) by Thile's recent divorce (this darker tone can be heard in the newest Nickel Creek album as well, and seems to be dominating his current work). I love the first and third movements in particular. Most of the members of Punch Brothers played on Thile's How To Grow album (this includes Noam Pikelny and my current favorite fiddler, Gabe Witcher). There were some Nickel Creek fans who didn't respond well to this because they were still miffed over the break-up (Nickel Creek, Thile's first band, recently broke up). Some truly hardcore bluegrass fans didn't like the album, either, because this really isn't traditional bluegrass at all. The aforementioned 30-year-old said it took a while for him to start liking the album. I think people who aren't bluegrass listeners but are classically trained musicians would really appreciate this album.

Nickel Creek: Why Should The Fire Die?
The latest (and last) album of Nickel Creek, which was comprised of Chris Thile and the Watkins siblings, Sara and Sean. (As a side note, Sean Watkins has a new project out with Jon Foreman of Switchfoot called Fiction Family. Their rather poppy self-titled debut album is worth checking out.) This is the best Nickel Creek album, hands down. Like Punch, it kind of lingers on the darker side of relationships, but is more interesting and layered than their earlier stuff. It also highlights just how much more talented Thile is than the other two band members (sorry, I had to say it), because the best tracks were written and sung by him. Such tracks include, "When In Rome," "Jealous Of The Moon," and "Doubting Thomas."

Chris Thile: Deceiver
This was probably the biggest "WTF?!"-inducer that took place in the bluegrass world in recent history. People went from being upset at Thile (after all, many believed he was the cause of the Nickel Creek break-up) to being straight up pissed at him after he released this record. But I think it's a dandy record and those kiddos can just stick it in their respective juice-boxes and SUCK IT. This is considered the pop album that Thile had to get out of his system. There's electric guitar in it. There's drumming. There's jazz. It honestly threw me off a bit the first time I heard it, but it eventually grew on me. Notable tracks: "The Wrong Idea" (think Akon's "Sorry, Blame It On Me" but with a mandolin), "On Ice" (this caused a bit of a stir since the innocent little mandolin-playing Chris that so many love says "shit" in it) and "Jessamyn's Reel."

Rocky Votolato: Makers
This is music which should be approachable to the masses. I think someone made a comparison to Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon? This is not what you would call bluegrass. It's basically good country music - better writing, better vocals, depressing lyrics (not always, though). He has a warm, rough voice. Best tracks - "White Daisy Passing" and "The Uppers Aren't Necessary." Avoid "The Night's Disguise" - there are some funky intonation issues.

Notable acoustic albums that didn't make this spectrum are:

Fionn Regan: The End Of History (He's Irish. Notable tracks: "Hey Rabbit," "The Cowshed" and "Abacus")
Kate Rusby: The Girl Who Couldn't Fly (She's British. Notable tracks: "The Lark" and "Fare Thee Well")
Jose Gonzalez: In Our Nature (He's Argentinian, but was born in Sweden and formerly played in a punk band. He also almost got a Ph.D. in biochemistry, but didn't finish since his music career took off. Notable tracks: "Down The Line," "Abram" and "The Nest")

In other news, have any of you seen the trailer for Gamer? I feel like Gerard Butler's trying to compensate for something. Oh, something like every single terrible movie he's been in since 300.



Sunday, August 09, 2009

On Friday, I made the mistake of heading over to Target to pick up my brother's school supplies.

Curse you, tax-free holiday.

Afterward, I involuntarily saw The Soloist (and subsequently missed that rather painful Red Sox game). You know, I had my prejudices against this movie before I saw it, mostly because the last movie involving musicians that I saw was August Rush, which was really, really bad. So bad that even Freddie Highmore couldn't make me feel any emotion other than disgust. But I actually ended up liking The Soloist, which is based on the articles and book that Steve Lopez, LA Times writer, wrote based on his real-life friendship with a schizophrenic, homeless, cellist/violinist/double-bassist/trumpeter/french-hornist/drummer, former-Julliard student named Nathaniel Ayers. The movie caught some flak from most reviewers, who claimed that the writing and direction were hokey. It seems to me that the filmmakers chose to honor the integrity of the real relationship between Lopez and Ayres over the production of a well-developed, artful storyline, which is totally fine by me. Lopez and Ayres are still friends and Ayres' condition hasn't improved by a lot, so there's no real "ending" to the story in both real-life and in the movie. I will agree with the reviewers when it comes to the acting, though. Robert Downey Jr., who I've loved ever since seeing A Scanner Darkly, plays Lopez and Jamie Foxx plays Ayres, and they are both incredible. It's almost flawless. I was kind of nervous about seeing Foxx play the cello, but he faked it pretty well. More importantly, he conveys Aryes' passion for music with a really believable earnestness. You'd probably have to be a musician, or just really sharp about these sort of things, to notice that he fakes the playing (although I will admit that his playing did bother me from time to time). I didn't really have any qualms with the writing (except there is this one sort of cheesy scene where doves fly over a tunnel and into the sky, paralleling Ayres' ability to transcend his illness through music, all while Beethoven plays in the background), thought the acting was near-perfect, thought the cinematography was super (it's done by Seamus McGarvey, who did Atonement, High Fidelity and The Hours), and thought it did an excellent job of highlighting the problem of poverty in the LA area.

In other news, Shark Week is over.

Now what?



Thursday, August 06, 2009

(This is what I wrote and then performed at the school Poetry Slam this year.)

I've something to say
and I have a confession -
I...I love haikus.

Lately, it's been worse.
I find myself thinking things
In five, seven, five -

"High school is a bunch
of bureaucratic hoops that
we have to jump through”

(Do you think it counts
If I use enjambments? Well -
I don't care. Psh. Please.)

But I really think
That haikus are useful things –
Trust me on this one.

I propose a plan
To save time, sanity –
High school. In haikus.

The latest gossip
In seventeen syllables –
Would you believe that?!

The Scarlet Letter
Hester and Pastor have sex.
Bastard child is born.

Or, Heart of Darkness:
Life sucks if you get greedy,
More in the Congo.

All that reading time
Distilled down to 3 small lines –
I’d have all that time!

Time I could have spent –
As if I don’t have enough –
Writing more haikus!

Home ec? That works, too.
Ingredients in pot.
Add water, don’t burn.

Or, art history –
Van Gogh cut off his ear lobe.
They were all on crack.

Viral videos –
Even those could be reduced
To 3 small lines.

"Can I have it, gurl?
Yvonne, that's a French-ass name.
My little croissant."

Or, “Seh-cur-ah-tay!
I got a complicated
Order!” (Bon Qui Qui).

I know you're thinking,
"Did she just really go there?"
And yeah, I just did.

So, I love haikus.
But am I obsessed with them?
Well...that's a strong word.



Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hey, Blog. Sorry I haven't been taking good care of you lately, but I promise it'll work out this time. I even have a post prepared and everyth--

Erm. Anyway, I'm back, bitches. With pictures this time. Okay that's a lie; I didn't have my camera with me. I drew this instead!

1. I finished seasons one and two of 30 Rock. Those DVDs were pretty much like crack. Note my rendering of my two favorite characters, Pete Hornberger (he plays the producer of the show on the show) and Liz Lemon (main character, writer of the show on the show). It almost scares me how similar I am to Liz. There's an episode where she talks about "Lizzing," which basically means "laughing so hard so pee a little in your pants." Which I have done. She also takes 2 minute dance breaks (which I do, only more frequently than her) and uses the word "poo" (I generally add a "p" to the end of that, though) at an abnormally high frequency. Freaky. Then again, maybe the average female is a lot weirder than I originally thought. "Blerg." (Okay seriously, if you haven't seen the show, go to Hulu right now.)

2. I tried to heat up some ready-made lasagna in the oven but forgot to check on it. Luckily, only the surface looked like shit. I am a good cook, really, but yesterday was kind of a blow to my self-esteem.

3. Speaking of blows to self-esteem, I finally tried slack-lining yesterday. Slack-lining is basically tying an elastic rope to two trees a couple feet off the ground and then walking on it. I make it sound a little lamer than it really is. Matt and Nudie got mad at me earlier in the year for making a snarky comment about it, so it was only fair to give it a try when Matt whipped out the gear yesterday afternoon. I got on the rope, held onto my friend, Laura (along with a tree), and... yep. That's about it. My lack of ability to re-adjust my center of gravity coupled with my laughter prevented me from making any progress toward the other end. It was exciting.

Cheap thrills, cheap thrills.


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