Tuesday, May 27 : 7:05 AM : 0 comments :

"When you write about things as they're happening -- which is what most people do on blogs -- you lose perspective, or rather, your perspective shrinks, so that only a tiny slice of your reality gets recorded. The cumulative impact of several months' worth of posts can lead to an entirely different conclusion than a few snippets taken out of context. This is the danger of blogging and also its seductive charm. It's so easy and fun to report on your current state of mind and your opinions, especially when you have strong feelings, and strong feelings are also fun to read about. You hated that movie! You're in love with that guy! That person's a douchebag!

Unfettered self-expression has its drawbacks, though. Like: what if you change your mind? What if you learn some things that make you feel entirely differently about that person, that movie, that guy? The version you recorded is still perpetually available, making you seem wishy-washy or, worse, like a liar if you flip-flop now. Your problem now becomes that the most popular result of a Google search becomes 'the truth,' even if you'd like it to be otherwise."
-Heartbreak Soup-
In a recent article about ex-Gawker editor Emily Gould, she talks about what she gained and lost by exposing her life online via personal and professional blogs. While I'd never heard about Gould until this article, it seems like she's made quite an impression on the Internet in a very short time. I'll definitely have to give her exploits a sidebox in "Revenge of the Rough Guide to Blogging."

A few years ago, I started a journal. A consistent one that I actually try to update and write. Unlike Gould, I'm not really an oversharer at all. Even if I love secrets, gossip, and shared interior monologues, I try to carefully measure how much I dole out about myself. I also tend to not be completely honest when expressing things a lot, which is both good and terrible at the same time.

Most of the blogs I read, and almost all the ones I fall in love with, are from people who reveal themselves online. They actually write about how they feel, what happened to them, or what they think happened and their honest opinion about it. I do none of these things -- thus I admire the people who choose to do so.

Mainly when I share something publicly, I'm speculating, questioning, or just asking "So what did you think?" There have been moments when I've contemplated journaling publicly, or opening it to public viewing, but each time something holds me back. For one, it would be a total PR disaster. For two, well. There is no two. There's always parts of you that should stay hidden from view don't you think?

Also there's a fear that everything would be taken the wrong way. It's easier to be opinionated, hateful, caring, loving, disgusted, or angry in private. Doing it in public would be quite a big step up from where I am now. Also, as Gould articulated so well in the quote above, journals aren't really an accurate representation of what you really think (even if they are secret), they are just snapshots of a "tiny slice of your reality that gets recorded."

So really, none of it is true anyway.
"What I was thinking as, like, a New Year's resolution is to stop getting so caught up in my own thoughts. 'Cause I'm, like, way too introspective. I think. But what if not thinking turns me into this really shallow person? I better rethink this becoming less introspective thing."

In the Zone  

Wednesday, May 21 : 6:04 AM : 0 comments :

"You can maintain a friendship over a distance. Once the person is a friend, it takes very little data to communicate very complex things. You can send a five-word e-mail that, for someone else, would take a two-hour conversation."
There used to be a time when I would willingly wander into social situations willy-nilly. My curiosity was high and any new experience seemed to have value. I wasn't afraid of going somewhere to meet up with people alone and without an entourage or at least another friend. During the first weeks of college, that was the only way I knew how to get over homesickness. Get as involved as possible. Toward that end, I joined any semi-applicable organization, actively sought out people who had similar interests, and committed time to hanging out with people I didn't know very well. That was probably the last time I was so open and available. I guess, in a way, it was out of desperation. When you don't know a soul, you have to go outside your comfort zone. Or you know, die alone.

What happens when everyone's adults though? A common refrain among my peers nowadays is how hard it is to meet people. Aside from people you work with, a network of previous friends, or the occasional acquaintance, where else can you meet new friends? Especially when you're not just looking for a second tier friend but one you can be comfortable with most of the time. Friendships like those usually take some time to build. But, who has that kind of time anymore?

Well, I do actually. I have all the time in the world. But it's not easy. Do you attack meeting people through shared interests (thus limiting yourself to occasional activity and a slow build) or do you just scattershot and throw yourself at people and then see how you guys get along? The main problem with meeting people nowadays is that I judge. Like a lot.

You spend years and years trying to figure out who "my people" are but when you're suddenly trying to open your mind and expand your horizons, you find that natural defensive instinct kick in really quickly. It's hard to shut off the stereotyping mindset, the triggers that make you back away, and the feeling of "Wait, why am I doing this?"

Especially for someone like me who has become accustomed to making insta-friends, it's annoying to have to wait. I don't even have it bad. Some light research online will tell you that people are just desperate for friendship. They hate their current friends, they're bored with life, they need companionship, they're looking for someone to appreciate them, whatever. Some of these people are like really young. Nineteen, twenty, twenty one. I can't understand how they're having such a hard time finding people to connect with. Or is the implication that these people are somehow flawed in some way that they can't make friends the regular old way.

Wait, what's the regular old way?
"A friend is someone who you like a lot who understands you at a pretty deep level."
-Friends Indeed?-

School of Rock  

Thursday, May 15 : 3:25 AM : 0 comments :

Every Saturday for over ten years, George and I filed off to Rancho Bernardo for Chinese school. On the surface, going to Chinese school totally sucked. Who wants to forcibly spend three hours every Saturday morning going to more school? But the thing was, I don't think we complained that much because Chinese school wasn't so much a punishment as it was a chance to socialize with an ever growing group of friends.

As I was talking to Evan (a fellow Chinese school alum) the other day, we remarked on how important Chinese school was for our sense of self-esteem and sociability. In retrospect, it played a huge role in allowing me to be who I am/was.

First off, going to Chinese school provided an alternate venue for self valuation. This is pretty huge if you think about it. Most kids' middle and high school experiences are fraught with issues of where they fit in and who their friends were, that kind of thing. But when we were in school in the early 80's, there were hardly any niches to be filled by Asian kids except the nerd/dork/geek one. Especially if you were from overseas.

But in Chinese school, everyone was a complete dork so there was hardly much social status to be gained or lost. I was probably uniquely obliviously to social status in either school but at Chinese school, it really didn't matter. There wasn't room for cliques, cool kids, or jocks. Everyone just mingled together in a big bowl of Chineseness. I mean, most of us had similar upbringings and similar parental issues, as evidenced by the fact that we were sitting in those chairs at 9am on a weekend. We didn't mind it though because the academic portion of Chinese school was mostly a joke -- I mainly learned how to cheat and got enough writing down to do well in my first semester or two of college Mandarin -- and the rest of the time was spent socializing.

By the end of middle school, I think my social life was more centered around that one day of Chinese school than the weekdays spent at normal school. For years and years, our parents gathered after Chinese school and all went to lunch together, which allowed the kids to play and hang out together for the rest of the day. This was where the majority of my childhood friendships were formed.

With Chinese school as an important social center, it made normal life fade into the background. I didn't have too many friends at my normal school but I don't think I cared too much. Sure, maybe playing D&D during lunch had something to do with not having a lot of friends but it was also the sense of security in knowing that I had a whole bunch of friends waiting for me on Saturdays.

Heck, even in something like the world of athletics, going to Chinese school was empowering. I was hardly a good athlete at regular school but at Chinese school, many of the boys played basketball and football during the breaks and there was less disparity between our physical prowess and skills. It was sort of like a lowering tide sunk all boats kinda thing. We could be our normal dorky Chinese selves and be happy about it.

So, thanks Chinese school.


Tuesday, May 13 : 5:30 PM : 0 comments :

"There's a difference between meditation and prayer, though both practices seek communion with the divine. I've heard it said that prayer is the act of talking to God, while meditation is the act of listening. Take a wild guess as to which comes easier for me. I can prattle away to God about all my feelings and my problems all the livelong day, but when it comes time to descend into silence and listen... well, that's a different story. When I ask my mind to rest in stillness, it is astonishing how quickly it will turn (1) bored, (2) angry, (3) depressed, (4) anxious or (5) all of the above."
-Eat, Pray, Love-

Caulk the Wagon  

Monday, May 12 : 5:43 AM : 0 comments :

Some people like keeping their various friendships separate, allowing them the space to have a few different circles. Not me. In an ideal world all my friends would know each other and they would all get along famously. Of course, this is impossible because nothing guarantees that just because two people can call you friend, they'll get along too. I love it though, when two people who I know in completely different circles or on totally different levels, can strike up a friendship that lies totally independently of me.

I've realized that I kind of get nervous a little when having friends meet for the first time. I want them to like each other, I want each of them to understand why I think the other is so great, and I want them to be friends so that we can all hang out together in the future. Problem is, to further this end, I tend to meddle and separate people unless I'm absolutely sure that they'll get along. I've been told recently that I get this idea of who someone is and then I make a judgment call on whether or not they'll get along with another person. If I think they would, I don't hesitate to introduce them. If I think they won't, I tend to keep them apart.

This putting people into boxes isn't the point of this blog. The actual point is a term we've recently been using: Crossing the streams. Check out the following scene from Ghostbusters.
"Egon: Don't cross the streams.
Peter: Why?
Egon: It would be bad.
Peter: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, 'bad'?
Egon: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Ray: Total protonic reversal.
Peter: Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon."
In our world, "crossing the streams" is being using to refer to the action of having friends meet and greet each other. Of course, not all such meetings are fraught with peril but when you place such an importance on friends liking friends (like I do), it can be nerve-wracking and a potential disaster area. It's like planning an event, you have to lay the groundwork for a successful evening, and then also work on contingencies in case of emergencies.

After having two friends meet, or a person introduced to a whole group of your friends, it's de rigeur to have a de-briefing session. "What did you think of so-and-so?" The best thing to hear is something other than platitudes and hope that they got a chance to interact on some level that might spark something other than just "Oh, so you're friends with Jon? Okay, cool." I mean, for the most part, you're introducing friends to other friends for a reason right?

If a compilation of your friends can give a fuller picture of your personality, isn't it always interesting to have two of your friends meet? But man, what if it goes all wrong and they totally don't get along? Does your world end in total protonic reversal? Probably not, but it would sure make my potential The Gauntlet: Season Me all that more interesting.

Flame On!  

Tuesday, May 6 : 2:32 AM : 0 comments :

Here's what I've done: I've taken the miniscule amount of money I call my life savings and converted it into stocks. I'm now a proud part-owner of Marvel Entertainment. If I were a smart man, I would have done something for show like buy one share just to say I put my money where my mouth is but I'm a grown man and I like to do irresponsible things as often as I can.

From bankruptcy nearly a decade ago to hit movie after hit movie, Marvel is going places -- I hope. Now that Iron Man has pushed them to record heights, everyone is a true believer. I was trying to figure out if I should put in a couple of thousand or a few thousand. Big difference. I mean, that could be the difference between an unemployed Jon in the fall or an employed one. After some thought, I decided to hedge my bets and put in only enough so that I won't have to pull it out until 2009-10. The wise man invests long term. The wise man also diversifies but whatever.

So anyway, after the next slate of awesome Marvel movies comes out, I'll be a rich man. Or I'll be a pauper but with 5000 superheroes stacked behind me, ready to defend the universe -- or fend off my creditors.

After setting up my very first stock market account, I eagerly put in a purchase order yesterday. If I had done it over the weekend, I would have been far better off -- because Iron Man opened so well and Marvel's first quarter earnings report came out to great acclaim on Monday, the price jumped nearly ten percent -- but it's better late than never right? Of course, as soon as I put in my order, I started second guessing myself and tried to figure out if I should wait a week to see if the stock goes up or down. In the end, I just closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, and said "Avengers Assemble!"

I bought in at $33.05 Monday morning. Now it's at $33.49. Haha, I'm rich! This stock market thing can seriously make you crazy. I went down four percent in the morning and then up a bit by the time the market closed. I stayed up until 6:45am to make sure my trade went through and to find out how the market was reacting to my initial foray into day trading. Now that my money's working for me, I just hope it didn't inherit my work ethic.

Make Mine MVL.

Raven Darkholme  

Sunday, May 4 : 5:28 AM : 0 comments :

"[Leslie] Bennetts brilliantly captures the conspicuous consumption behind at least some of the so-called "opt-out revolution": Where a plump, well-fed wife used to be enough to prove a man's earning power, now it's having a stay-at-home spouse, Pilatesized and pedicured to perfection, who flaunts her unused Ivy League professional degree like a big flashy diamond.

And for certain soulless, status-seeking women (yes, they get under my skin, too) it seems that in a world of abundance and excess, the best way to prove your worth is to squander it, to forgo making a difference in the wider world while pretending that raising children is a lifelong endeavor (it isn't) that makes you better than other women (it doesn't)."
-Joan Walsh, The Feminine Mistake-

The Littles  

Thursday, May 1 : 5:26 AM : 0 comments :

I have this mistaken belief that I'm great with kids. The mistake isn't that I'm not great -- okay, decent -- with kids, but it's more that I'm way overprotective and think of them as super incompetent beings. You gotta let kids live and learn but I'm always hyper aware of the many ways things that can go wrong or how quickly they could fall and shatter their little bodies or something. It's horrible. When I (awkwardly) hold babies, I'm all tensed up thinking I'm going to drop them.
Nothing makes my friends laugh harder than watching me hold a baby, as if it's two incongruous things smashed together. Similar to how they laugh when I have a dumbell in my hands. Or a power tool.
When babies start crawling or walking, I'm like right around them, using my arms and hands as a protective halo. I'd be like the five star crash test of baby sitters. Your child would never leave the confines of a pillowy couch if I had my way. It may seem extreme but it's the only rational thing to do. The best defense is a giant inflatable tank that your baby could never climb out of. But I'm learning that babies are more durable than I think. For example, with slightly older kids, especially boys, they like to climb, jump, run, and fall. They want to play some hard ball and get mussed up and dirty.

I gotta learn how to let go I guess.

My whole line is always that I like kids but only if they're related to me. I'll put in a lot of effort to make sure that my cousins really like me. Other people's kids? Annoying tots. But then there's that middle ground, the kids of my friends. Where do those fall? Well, if you love your friends, it's hard not to love their spawn. Especially when they're so darn cute and well behaved that you can't really resist touching their chubby cheeks and marveling over their tiny toes.

But goddam playing with kids is tiring. Today was play with your friends' kids day. Lunch with Gene and 9-month year old Sage and then the park and dinner with Micah, who's three. By the time we put Micah into bed and read him a story or two, I was super pooped and zonked out on the couch. This was at like ten o'clock. Did I mention I woke up at noon and don't have a job or any other energy draining activities to speak of?

Give it up for parents of young people out there. I don't know how you do it.

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