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Loud Hatred and Quiet Love in Society: Interview with Steve H.

In everyday American culture, politeness is valued above most qualities. But how often is empathy substituted by politeness? On January 27, 2014, a trending status popped up on my Facebook homepage:

You know the most f*cked up thing about our society is? We’re only allowed to express what we hate openly, and what we love quietly.
You know the most f*cked up thing about the social expectations is? That ultimately no one gives a shit about you, your welfare, or your feelings.
Because no one wants to listen, they’ll give you that dirty look as if you’re the one at fault and should not try to throw this emotional burden on others.

It peaked at 83 likes.

I met Steve during my undergraduate year in film class. He came off as personable, friendly, and a general do-gooder. He seemed like the last person I’d suspect to have a mental breakdown. Though we conversed entirely in English, both our mother tongue ties back to Mandarin. “In Taiwan, they really don’t give a damn about your individuality… they make you feel like your self-worth is just. Splat. Down there. That you’ll always belong in this group, you’ll always learn the same thing, [and] you’ll always be doing the same thing.”

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During the time China and Taiwan had political and plausible violent conflicts, Mr. H convinced Mrs. H (Steve’s father and mother, respectively) to take their son to the sanctuary of Canada. On one of Mr. H’s rare visits, Mrs. H became pregnant with a girl. Mrs. H was prepared for the transition into a full-time caretaker of her children and life in a foreign city. The move granted her children exposure to both Western culture and education. Mrs. H eventually went back to industry after the family reunited in Taiwan four and a half years later.

Steve grew up in the absence of his father in his early years. “[Even in] the times he did spend with me, it felt like he only did it out of obligation. Like he would be on his cellphone or reading the newspaper or whatever.” In the later half of high school, Steve stayed with his aunt and uncle in New Hampshire. What temporary relief that the move to America could’ve brought was lost when he realized he was wedged in-between the rocky marriage of his aunt and uncle.

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Keelung, Taiwan. Steve’s hometown.

“I wasn’t a freeloader,” Steve said. “My mother paid my uncle out of courtesy, because my mom is my aunt’s younger sister. Technically speaking, my aunt wouldn’t have asked her sister to pay anything, but… that’s just how it went.” His aunt often ended her day in tears, despite being the ‘more reasonable, more logical’ one and sought Steve for comfort against his uncle’s hurtful accusations.

“I always had to be this person that I did not want to be […] I was always put in that position where I have to sort of compromise between them. I have to sort of appeal to my uncle because I want to stay in that house, I wanna finish my high school. But I always have to comfort my aunt […] I would always have to analyze things for her. ‘Oh, things will get better because our uncle had this kind of background, that’s how he became the man he is today,’ this and that.”

It’s noteworthy to mention that in traditional Chinese culture, the eldest male in the family receives the most pressure to succeed financially and to carry on the family name. He had to face exceedingly high expectations for ‘success’, determined by the amount of wealth and prestige one can generate, both from his family and himself. This building accumulation of expectation snowballed in college, when he ultimately “shattered” against the weight of expectation.

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“So I always had this expectation of myself right? And this expectation was that I could pick myself back up […] I’m an Aquarius, the one with the vase. It was like I would break and have to piece myself back together again with glue, but it wouldn’t really hold.”

SH: So you took those feelings and went to college.

ST: […] I wanted to make myself feel worthy again. I wanted to try my best to get involved with student organizations, and I think I did a good job of it. […] No one took the time to call me, to text me, or even Facebook message me. Well, a few of my cousins did.

I didn’t feel like just lounging at a person and telling them all my issues. Again, this sounds ironic because I already threw it on Facebook. I’m already trying to make it someone else’s business, but there’s this guilt inside of me that I feel like if I were to trouble somebody with this–

SH: It’s not their burden to carry.

ST: Right, and I would owe them something… For the most part, they were like, ‘do you want to talk about it? do you want to meet up this weekend?’ and all I did was, ‘it’s okay, don’t worry it, I’ll be fine soon enough.’ Lies, lies, lies.

***

The next day after Steve made his first Facebook post, he realized that it might’ve been a mistake when some of his friends acted differently towards him. “Is it completely going to change my image in front of people?”Steve reflected out loud. “And it did. I had someone ask me if I was bipolar… like they didn’t believe I was depressed, because I didn’t act like it. They thought it was a joke.

[I] climbed to the elevator shaft on the first floor of my dorm… until someone I knew walked by and asked if I was feeling okay, and I felt the sincerity in the voice asking me that triggered me to release all the negative emotion I had inside of me. So I just straight up started crying. I just cried and cried and cried. I didn’t even care how terrible I sounded. I sound like a seal when I cry, you know.”

He and his ex-roommate, who had been promoted to be a resident advisor, had a long chat the same night of his breakdown. Steve was told that if he had a breakdown within the next week, he would be put on suicide watch and would have to get professional help.

SH: What would be your advice to someone who’s struggling with depression, anxiety, or maybe just struggling in general?

ST: I would say to get help. Tell someone, anyone. Don’t let it get to my point where you breakdown. And if you need professional help… you should get it.

What my counselor did was that she listened to me from a very neutral standing point, and just encouraged me to talk as much as possible… She believed the best way to deal with sadness was to fully comprehend what had gone on and for it to get to that point.

SH: Have you gotten better since you’ve gone to therapy?

ST: Definitely. I’m a lot better now. It took time, but I’m better.

To read Steve’s original full posts, click here.

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6 Unconventional Love Stories Perfect for Valentine’s Day

My friend Alex Wen, writer and reviewer of many things, joins me in selecting the finest Valentine’s Day movies sure to make you go, “Why?” while munching on popcorn. Strawberries and champagne included, ‘cause that’s what we like.

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12 Angry Men (1957)

An 18-year-old Hispanic boy stabs his father to death. Now what? 12 Angry Men explores the boy’s verdict process led by Henry Fonda, and debate is sparked on the basis of reasonable doubt. The viewer is invited into the room with the same monotony and presumptions as most of the jurors: let’s just name a verdict and call it a day! Fonda tests your patience to unravel a mind tease worth waiting for. The recipe: stuff 12 salty, sweaty men who just want to be done with jury duty into a hot, humid room for 1 hour and 33 minutes. Let them bake until justice is served.

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When Marnie was There (2014)

When Marnie was There is a Studio Ghibli film that slipped under the radar. After being sent from the city to the rural countryside, tomboy Anna Sasaki (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld) meets a mysterious blonde girl only she can see. Their nightly adventures are filled with underlying tones of eroticism– gentle caresses and playful touches, intimate gazes into each others’ eyes, and at one point dancing under the moonlight– a tone that only makes the twist even weirder. The film goes at a steady pace deconstructing Anna’s adolescent identity and, by the end of the film, shows her cumulated development as a growing girl.

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A Muse (2012)

The younger woman, older man pairing is taken to an extreme in A Muse. By chance, and more fittingly by fate, 70-year-old poet Lee Jeok-yo (Park Hae-il) falls in love with 17-year-old Eun-gyo (Kim Go-eun). The film is explicit in showing Jeok-yo’s conflicting inner state of being, full of raw emotions that pull him at the arms and legs, resulting in a narrative that feels more (uncomfortably) real than your typical romance. Jeok-yo’s apprentice, Ji-woo (Kim Mu-yeol), comes in to complete the love triangle. Each character is refreshingly self-aware of his/her circumstance in their pursuit for an ageless romance.

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

While many debate the merits of Oscar front-runner La La Land, few can deny the influences it draws from French darling The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Jacques Demy’s musical masterpiece transcends words as it paints the dashing vibrancy of young love. Indeed, Demy may have found the structure of speech too rigid, opting for a full-blown musical–every word of dialogue is sung. Beautiful, bold colors and charming numbers set the stage for a film that accurately taps into the intensity, self-assuredness and impracticality of young love birds. A stunning performance by Catherine Deneuve is the cherry on top.

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The Lobster (2015)

In Lanthimos’ dystopian world–much like the real world, it’s illegal to be single. Any non-couples are sent to a hotel where they have 45 days to find a partner or be turned into an animal. This is the fate that awaits David (Colin Farrell), newly single after his wife left him. As he avoids turning into a lobster, he’s sent to hunt down single people hiding in the woods and attend awkward dances, all while trying to find a new companion. The absurdist humor is tempered by Lanthimos’ penchant for dark, dry wit. It’s the eerie familiarity of courtship games, the absurdity of tribal behavior and the banality of human loneliness, that define the dystopian structure–rather than the wacky scenarios. The Lobster’s greatest accomplishment is having the audience find mundane romantic rituals the most absurd aspect of a world where single people hide in forests.

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Millennium Mambo (2001)

Troubled couple Vicky and Hao-Hao live in the same apartment, but as Hao-Hao puts it, they’re from two different worlds. Millennium Mambo explores the isolation and disillusionment that plague young adults living at the edges of society. Hou allows the camera to stray from the subjects, floating off into mosaics of color or lingering on the insignificant backgrounds. Instead, it’s the emotions–the character’s contempt and desperation–that serve as the central pillar of focus. As Hou explores Vicky’s world, he unravels the inherent privilege that provides for a life of normalcy. The plot is sparse, pacing slow and narration unnecessary, but Hou succeeds in conveying the emotional core of Millennium Mambo, enough to build a bridge between worlds.

 

 

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Fireside Chat with Brian Dickerson, Creator of Brian Memes

While I was browsing Facebook on my phone, one of my friend’s shared posts caught my eye:


I reached out to Brian Dickerson, creator of Brian Memes, for more on his personal interests and his creations.

***

S: What are some of your favorite anime from this past year?

B: From last year I’d say Attack on Titan, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and… that’s about it.

 

S: Were the anime characters you parodied in your video based off specific Naruto characters?

B: Actually they were based off a mixture of characters in one. Yusuke from Yu Yu Hakusho, Ichigo from Bleach, Pain from Naruto and Freiza [from Dragon Ball Z].

 

S: That’s awesome! I can see the characters now that you point them out. How do you draw inspiration for your meme creations?

B: Aw you’re too kind. […] I’ll be honest, I don’t even script my material, everything comes straight from the noggin. Every now and then I do set reminders in my phone of which ones to work on since so many ideas come to mind throughout the day. Most of my ideas come from personal experiences.

 

S: Letting the creativity flow right through. I like that. They say the best sources of inspiration come from daily life (like the ones of your mom calling). Can we be expecting another anime parody video from you in the future?

B: Agreed! You can tell when it’s real and when it’s far-fetched, either way it’s funny so it doesn’t even matter……and yes I’ll be putting out a series actually, sometime soon. The more people in it, the better.

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***

During the day, Brian holds a job at Gold’s Gym. He attended the Thomas Edison High School of Technology for about 3 years, where he learned masonry, landscaping, and electrical work. He plans on utilizing those skills in the future to build brick and mortar businesses. His words of advice to every aspiring video maker:

do what no one else has done. First observe the masses, then do the opposite. And take notes on any unique ideas that come to mind. Then…take action.

If you’re interested in collaborating with Brian, you reach him on Facebook. If you’re cool enough, he might even give you his digits. Now that’s colloquialism.

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Oh, Joseph! Not in public...

FEB17 Collection of Random Thoughts

Lately I’ve been having many dreams involving different forms of government. Sometimes I am an observer, other times I’m in the heat of the debate or an active agent working the field. I’ve had dreams where I am 25 pounds lighter than I am right now, dreams of hiding a period stain on my butt from co-workers, and tiptoeing to safe spots while naked in public.

In today’s dream, a 30-something year-old said, “Silly people, don’t they know? All lobsters come with parachutes.” A small blue parachute laid on top of a wooden desk, and a blonde woman in her 20’s proceeds to lift a live, claw-snapping lobster from underneath the parachute. I was amazed.

“People don’t have to buy lobsters at the grocery store anymore,” I said.

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DEMOCRACY FOR THE LOBSTERS!

  • Years ago, a woman emailed me about using the pancake song in her recipe book. No idea how that would’ve worked, and I never heard back…https://youtu.be/oUbgDSko6H0Did she have second thoughts about including an amateur song(ish) in her professional cook book? Nah…

 

  • My favorite yoga pose of the month is the pigeon.
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Oh, Joseph! Not in public…

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I’ve never hurt so good.

 

  • Strawberry roll cakes are delicious. And yes, I devoured the creation below. Each bite was full of strawberries, hand whipped cream, and fluffy cake…

 

  • I have been busy going back and forth between work, research, and classes. Never has lazing and sleeping felt so good.giphy
    Bad posture included.

 

  • I got a late Christmas gift from Kayla. She had been folding paper stars from the time we met in 7th grade.

Her fiancee, Nick, gave me a hand decorated jar filled with chocolates, a mini Vodka, and a lottery card.

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Unfortunately, Lady Luck didn’t want to give a hunnid…

 

  • Been helping with a Harry Potter trivia fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The main organizer, Jill, is so dedicated to the event… she has poured more heart and out-of-pocket expenses than I think necessary. Looking forward to how the event will turn out later this month. Sneak preview:
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Top 5 Animal Picks from Planet Earth II

Planet Earth II takes us around the world once again highlighting our planet’s exotic co-inhabitants, this time in HD. Artful camera framing combined with the crew’s latest technology produced breathtaking and mesmerizing scenery of each region’s distinct climate and terrain. You can almost feel the hairs and skin of fingernail-sized animals, and clearly see the faces of minuscule insects. The storylines of each animal, narrated by David Attenborough, flows steadily throughout each chapter of PEII and ties back to the theme of global warming.

1. Railroad Worm. In the darkest of night, a trail of neon dots are led by what appears to be Ruldoph’s nose. Highly poisonous, the railroad worm’s light warn others to stay out of the way… until it has its eyes on a millipede. (While it waddles like a warm, it’s actually a type of beetle.)

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Ya’ll know I’m not a fan of bugs, but how can you dislike something that gets rid of millipedes?

 

2. Snoring Rat. Viscachas, sometimes known as snoring rats, must enjoy the early rays of sunshine while the temperature is still bearable. It gets so hot up in the Argentinian mountains that it must seek shade before noon, becoming active again in the evening.

Just look at that face. That’s how I feel every morning. This pick may be more narcissistic than I thought…

 

3. Lioness. While lionesses don’t score high on the originality scale, the extreme conditions they survive under show their resilience and tenacity. “Most lion hunts end in failure. But no lions fail in failure than those who live in desert,” Attenborough said.

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Here’s a video of a lioness taken down by a giraffe (towards bottom).

 

4. Wilson’s Bird of Paradise (boyfriend’s pick). One of the first to capture the WBoP on film was none other than David Attenborough for Attenborough in Paradise (1996). A male WBoP clears a section of the forest floor and plucks the leaves out of the nearby trees in order to best standout and attract a female counterpart.

That’s not even the best part… I won’t spoil it for you.

 

5. Flying Lizard (boyfriend’s pick). Also known as flying dragons, these air gliding lizards move deeply and takes on delightful expressions in flight.

As a whole the documentary series suggests, in the cleverest way, that perhaps human beings aren’t the most interesting creatures on Earth.