(Entirely copy-pasted from The Economist for reference. It is probably the best writing advice ever given under 1000 words.)

The first requirement of The Economist is that it should be readily understandable. Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible. Keep in mind George Orwell’s six elementary rules (“Politics and the English Language”, 1946):

  1. Never use a Metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do (see Short words).
  3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out (see Unnecessary words).
  4. Never use the Passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a Jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous (seeIconoclasm).

Read the full Style Guide introduction.

Readers are primarily interested in what you have to say. By the way in which you say it you may encourage them either to read on or to give up. If you want them to read on:

Do not be stuffy. “To write a genuine, familiar or truly English style”, said Hazlitt, “is to write as anyone would speak in common conversation who had a thorough command or choice of words or who could discourse with ease, force and perspicuity setting aside all pedantic and oratorical flourishes.”

Use the language of everyday speech, not that of spokesmen, lawyers or bureaucrats (so prefer let to permitpeople to personsbuy to purchasecolleague to peerway out toexitpresent to giftrich to wealthyshow to demonstratebreak to violate). Pomposity and long-windedness tend to obscure meaning, or reveal the lack of it: strip them away in favour of plain words.

Do not be hectoring or arrogant. Those who disagree with you are not necessarily stupidor insane. Nobody needs to be described as silly: let your analysis show that he is. When you express opinions, do not simply make assertions. The aim is not just to tell readers what you think, but to persuade them; if you use arguments, reasoning and evidence, you may succeed. Go easy on the oughts and shoulds.

Do not be too pleased with yourself. Don’t boast of your own cleverness by telling readers that you correctly predicted something or that you have a scoop. You are more likely to bore or irritate them than to impress them.

Do not be too chatty. Surprise, surprise is more irritating than informative. So is Ho, hoand, in the middle of a sentence, wait for it, etc.

Do not be too didactic. If too many sentences begin CompareConsiderExpect,ImagineLook atNotePrepare forRemember or Take, readers will think they are reading a textbook (or, indeed, a style book). This may not be the way to persuade them to renew their subscriptions.

Do your best to be lucid (“I see but one rule: to be clear”, Stendhal). Simple sentences help. Keep complicated constructions and gimmicks to a minimum, if necessary by remembering the New Yorker‘s comment: “Backward ran the sentences until reeled the mind.”

The following letter from a reader may be chastening:

SIR—At times just one sentence in The Economist can give us hours of enjoyment, such as “Yet German diplomats in Belgrade failed to persuade their government that it was wrong to think that the threat of international recognition of Croatia and Slovenia would itself deter Serbia.”

During my many years as a reader of your newspaper, I have distilled two lessons about the use of our language. Firstly, it is usually easier to write a double negative than it is to interpret it. Secondly, unless the description of an event which is considered to be not without consequence includes a double or higher-order negative, then it cannot be disproven that the writer has neglected to eliminate other interpretations of the event which are not satisfactory in light of other possibly not unrelated events which might not have occurred at all.

For these reasons, I have not neglected your timely reminder that I ought not to let my subscription lapse. It certainly cannot be said that I am an unhappy reader.

—WILLARD DUNNING

Mark Twain described how a good writer treats sentences: “At times he may indulge himself with a long one, but he will make sure there are no folds in it, no vaguenesses, no parenthetical interruptions of its view as a whole; when he has done with it, it won’t be a sea-serpent with half of its arches under the water; it will be a torch-light procession.”

Long paragraphs, like long sentences, can confuse the reader. “The paragraph”, according to Fowler, “is essentially a unit of thought, not of length; it must be homogeneous in subject matter and sequential in treatment.” One-sentence paragraphs should be used only occasionally.

Clear thinking is the key to clear writing. “A scrupulous writer”, observed Orwell, “in every sentence that he writes will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?”

Scrupulous writers will also notice that their copy is edited only lightly and is likely to be used. It may even be read.

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I like to think that in life, there should always be something that you wake up in the morning excited for. Nay – not even excited for – just, anticipatory. Knowing what you’re going to do, knowing that even if it may be hard, you’ll want to do it. You might even be happy doing it.

For the past couple of months, I could probably count on one hand the number of mornings I’ve had like that.

It’s hard to even begin reflecting on what’s happened. So much has happened, so fast. There’s been good things and bad things, but mostly just a lot of chaos and conflict. The tentative shell of stability I’ve built up over the years is crumbling and being rebuilt with each day. I’ve been plagued with doubt, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness, but also happiness, love, excitement, and passion. This is not my sort of lifestyle. Not to this degree, it isn’t.

But in the end, I can’t just slap together a feel-good, worth-it, it’s-all-gonna-be-ok, reflection. I can’t. There’s too much uncertainty.

I don’t think I really understood hope before. I never needed it.

Hope is pushing through the pain and the fear, making wild grabs in the dark. Hope is what holds together the letters “ok” when you really want to scream and cry and give up and demand why. 

Hope is believing that you’ll make it through.

Hope is believing that you deserve to.

Hope is hanging in there for another morning, even if there’s no other choice.

 

I really wish teachers would stop talking about college.

Not really. I’m just tired of hearing about it. It seems like every once in a while they need to haul out the vaguely threatening words of “college” and “interests” and “goals”. I’ve been reminded so many times to think about potential career choices that I never want to think about potential career choices again. And I’m fifteen.

Of course, it’s good to have a game plan (and a realistic one at that) and to be able to plan for your future. All the same, it gets a bit overwhelming.

Understand, this comes from a kid who grew up in an Asian family and  decided for herself, around age 10-12, that she’d be a scientist and solve global warming. I’m not kidding.

I had read enough science articles by age 12 that I was certain of the impending Armageddon due to climate change and fossil fuel shortage. Sadly, many regrettably influential persons today (who will remain unnamed -there are too many) have yet to recognize this.

So little me figured I wasn’t about to wait to spend the latter half of my life helplessly suffering a worldwide crisis. I was going to help fix it – maybe even prevent some of it.

What was I talking about?

Right, college.

So this talk gets rather old for me, because I’ve been thinking about career choices for a long time. A while ago, I realized that I had already planned out my fate. I’ve also realized I have a tendency to set low expectations, and then pessimistically resign myself to the worst of them.

This is how my prediction went:

  1. Graduate high school
  2. Go to U of M
  3. Study engineering
  4. Have a sophomore year crisis when I realize maybe I should study medicine/law/architecture/17th century woodwind music
  5. Study engineering
  6. Graduate
  7. Have a graduation crisis when I realize maybe I should just get a real job already instead of getting more degrees.
  8. Get more degrees
  9. Try to solve climate change.
  10. Probably marry someone. Have kids, even though I hate kids, and then hate myself for proving right all those patronizing “you’ll change your mind” jerks.
  11. Die in a car crash

Keep in mind, 12-year-old-me already had a deep hatred for U of M (I saw it as a symbol of mediocrity). 12-year-old-me also detested small children. I now realize this is all very ironic.

I constructed this plan so I wouldn’t have to think anymore when teachers brought up college (invariably sounding as if  students have never even heard of it) It allowed me to believe that I knew what I was doing. And I’m fifteen.

Rarely do fifteen-year-olds accurately predict their future, I’ve heard.

I’ve think that the reason I set low standards (shut up, they’re low for me, okay? ) is because I’m afraid of failure. I don’t want to let myself down.

But predictable is mediocre. Safe is mediocre. Good is in fact, mediocre.

You know that thing where they ask grown adults what their ten year old selves would think of them? Well, ten year old me would be highly disappointed she found that I had gone through with the above plan. In fact, she’d probably reduce my adult self to tears with her cutting criticism. And you bet I would use the word “mediocre”.

I’ve decided that my fear of mediocrity is greater than my fear of failure. This is why I have officially trashed the above plan. I have deleted it from my brain, I have stuffed it down the sink and hit the waste disposal for five minutes straight.

I have a new plan. It looks like this.

  1. Graduate with a 4.0
  2. ????????????
  3. Fix the world

I’ve even utilized my valuable goal-making skills from all those lectures. There’s a specific short term goal and a broad long term goal. This is so politically correct, I don’t even know who I am anymore.

You know, this is more like what 12-year-old me had in mind. I actually believed I could do all that. Fix global warming, expand nuclear power, anything.

Thing is, I still do.

I think of it all the time, and it keeps me going.

 

Gotta go fix the InSinkErator now. I think I burned it out.

 

 

 

For some reason, the words “web design” make me think of that one line from Spiderman. I remember enjoying that pun greatly in the trailer. Disappointingly, none of my acquaintances have yet to suspect superhero activities when I mention my “job”.

Anyhow, I thought I’d post this thought.

As a longtime inhabiter of the internet (I think this word ought not to be capitalized by now, really), I’ve come across a good variety of web pages in my time. And I’ve found there is a certain aesthetic of functionality I greatly appreciate. I assume that the market for web design has exploded in recent times. It’s actually quite a remarkable thing to witness. Even though I was born – nay – entered computer-using capacity during the latter end of this initial development, I’ve still seen quite some changes. If I had been born a handful of years earlier, I would have no doubt seen even more evolution, but thankfully, much of it has been documented.

This evolution I write of is the change from bare-bones websites with serif fonts and solid-color backgrounds to those that we see today – sleek, interactive, and chock-full of camouflaged links, animations, photos, and videos. A quick illustration of this can be found here (I shan’t be ashamed of linking to a Buzzfeed article.)

There is something endearing about the bright blue links on 1996 Ebay (#5). The arcs of a Bauhaus font in 1996 Myspace (#6) are simultaneously comical and horrifying. Reddit (#8), on the other hand, appears remarkably unchanged from 2005.

It’s like the web page as we know it is a baby born in the late 1990s, and is currently blossoming into its teenager years. From its first, ungainly steps to its current, highly variegated explorations, a whole lot of ground has been covered.

However, the purpose of this post is not to document the evolution of the internet. I’m sure many others have done so, and excellently at that. It is to express the earlier mentioned aesthetic.

“Aesthetic” is a word I have come to semi-despise, but I find myself using it for lack of a better substitute.

aesthetic

a topic which has been discussed energetically

Unfortunately, I am still searching for that substitute.

There is a certain breed of website that I despite. I term this the Company That Spent Too Much Money At A Sub-Par Firm. Or an excellent firm, who knows.

This website is demanding. It expects you to scroll through in a particular way, blasting videos, images, and music at every turn. It attempts to micro-control the experience of its user. It tries to make every action result in some jazzy motion or color change or something, for responsiveness is suddenly the most important thing. These websites scream “experience” and “impressiveness” and “beautiful” – the first two of which I am not particularly interested when I am looking for something, and the last of which is frequently overblown.

This is not to say that these websites are too “busy” – indeed, many are quite “minimalistic”. Minimalistic in that nearly all the fonts are sans-serif, everything has sharp corners, and just a few colors are used.

I remember reading an article once about minimalism in logo design. Many successful logos aren’t minimalistic at all. Think Starbucks or Coca-Cola. In an age of logos with the same randomly abstract shapes, blocky sans-serif fonts, and childishly colorful tones, these logos stand out with their complexity. Without being overly simple, they are definitively memorable.

One fantastic New Yorker article mourned the demise of Google’s logo with their new, “minimalistic” design. It memorably states:

The letters’ literary old serifs were subtly authoritative: the sturdy, handsome “G,” the stately, appealing little “oo,” the typewriterish, lovable “g,” the elegant “l,” the thoughtful “e.”

 

Google took something we trusted and filed off its dignity. Now, in its place, we have an insipid “G,” an owl-eyed “oo,” a schoolroom “g,” a ho-hum “l,” and a demented, showboating “e.” I don’t want to think about that “e” ever again.

The same cautionary principle of minimalism applies towards websites. A website with too many features many not fare well, but one that is too stark to easily navigate may befall the same fate. The key is a balance between the two, tailored to the individual purpose of each website.

Websites, in general, are not museums. They are subway stations and grocery stores. And think – which makes more money?

The certain aesthetic website I enjoy is one that is humble, and recognizes what its purpose is. There is no one-size-fits-all design. An online shopping site is different from a photography blog or a newspaper.

A particular site that sparked this train of thought for me was crashblossoms.com. The content is entertaining, and the format is deliciously simple. It isn’t pretentious or fussy. It is also a distinctly WordPressian site – something I realized before I reached the “powered by WordPress” line at the bottom. Of course, I highly doubt this theme was chosen after a long winded debate on aesthetic and minimalism and functionality. That’s the beauty of it.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 6.51.04 PM

 

Yet all the same, I highly appreciate websites like this. Good content, paired with a unobtrusive design makes for a website that is both refreshing and welcoming. It’s nice to open a page that doesn’t demand attention to every aspect of it’s design. This is the sort of page that says “Hi there. My name is X. This is what I have to offer.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 6.53.43 PMAmong its raucous, demanding, tasteless, and high-maintenance brethren, it’s the nice fellow next door who invites you over for dinner. And you can bet that he’s great conversation, too.

 

 

It was nearly ten-thirty at night when I arrived home at last. It had been a long day. I had arrived that morning for a club meeting at 6:45, bearing my cello and two heavy bags. I had stayed after school to practice, audition, practice again, rehearse for a duet, and then was whisked off to another high school for another rehearsal.

I sat in the dark kitchen table and speedily consumed a bowl of porridge, then went upstairs.

In my room, I considered the workload in front of me. History notes – nearly complete. Literature packet, assigned two days prior – halfway complete. I first finished the history, then set upon the literature.

It was oddly relaxing, reading from works of Emerson and Thoreau. Their writing was lovely – eloquent yet powerful. I must admit, the Thoreau excerpt narrating his life at Walden Pond detailed the experience with such thoroughness, such soothing rhythm that I nearly fell asleep over the textbook.

If I had fallen asleep, perhaps my dreams would have been less tumultuous and bizarre than they have been recently. Perhaps I might have dreamed of a little shack by a clear pond, ringed by deep forests.

But there was no time for sleeping. I read the excerpts faithfully, and then set upon completing the packet. My handwriting steadily deteriorated, but I didn’t believe my content did. I toiled in the quiet incandescence of my room. The words “textual detail” were branded into my retinas by the end of the night.

I finished nearing midnight – not too terribly late. I put in my vision-correcting contacts, pulled on some old tee, and gladly went to bed.

My alarm gently and cruelly went off that morning at six fifteen, just as expected. I hauled myself awake. Another morning, another day.

In Literature that morning, as we all pulled out our packets, I rummaged for mine, combing my memory. With a sinking sensation, I unzipped my backpack and rustled through its contents. Binder, calculator, textbook, all there. Literature notebook – not there.

I informed the teacher of this. She told me to bring it in the next morning.

That night, the evening repeated itself. Rehearsal, practice, concert. I arrived home at ten thirty, drained by a grueling Brahms symphony, and immediately fell asleep.

The next morning, loitered in the physics classroom for a few minutes, until mid-conversation, two thoughts struck my mind.

My literature packet.

A four letter word.

I texted my mother, begging her to send me some picture proof of my work. To my great surprise, she offered to drop it off at school after going to the adjacent gym. I had been saved. I turned it in at the end of the day, feeling as if a disaster had been averted.

That night, as I returned from dance rehearsal, I checked my grades.

Assignment – Late – 5/10

My heart sunk at the red letters. It had been too late after all. A false hope – a repeated dismay. I cursed my faulty memory and inadequate organization. Forgetfulness and haste! I resolved to correct these at all costs. All the same, I looked back on that late Wednesday night and internally sighed.

For what?

I admired the A on my Zangle- it was bound not to last long, not after the essay grade was submitted. The teacher had informed us, with no schadenfreude, that all but a handful of students’ grades were fated to fall by a whole letter after the essay was factored in.

The essay had only had a single first late night, for I had toiled across a number of days. I felt a certain amount of pride for it, too, as I had scrutinized it for quotations and transitions – what was said to be lacking from my last essay. It was one of those few works I had really enjoyed writing and editing.

However, as I gazed upon the 5/10 late, I feared I would not be one of the handful of students with preserved grades. Nay, I was certain of it. I had long ago stopped believing in optimism. Yet optimism can be a curse of its own, always snaking in insidious tendrils of hope. It is a excellent thing, then, that I have a generous supply of weed-killer at hand.

Goodbye, A.

That is all.

I’m completely pumped up for warm weather, no school, summer camp, when I realize the one thing that ruins summer the most for me.

Insects.

I know it’s not a very sophisticated or unique complaint, but I don’t like insects at all. I firmly believe that they can live in peace in nature, where they maintain the balance of the food chain and keep the circle of life going, whatever. But inside human dwellings? No.

As much as I’ve tried to hold onto the blissful insect-free life of winter, summer is making it’s presence known. Ants have started crawling across my driveway, gnats fly into my face outside, and just about every other kind of insect seems to be emerging from wherever it is they go in winter.

My newly bared arms and legs are assaulted by prickly, tickly sensations that feel exactly like the most horrible critters you can imagine crawling all over you. I can’t be sure they aren’t, in fact, unless I’m watching each inch of my exposed skin at every moment. Sitting at a table is a nerve-wrecking experience due to my legs being hidden out of sight, where they could be attacked by any nasty creature any second.

I hate it.

Today, I ran into the basement, where my parents were peacefully watching television, wailing “I HATE INSECTS. I HATE INSECT. I HATE INSECTSSSSSAAAAUUUUURGGHHH!!!” They were slightly alarmed at first, but as my hysterical giggles started, they quickly realized that there was no real danger and resumed watching their show.

This is what happened.

I was innocently sitting at the table with my laptop when out of the corner of my eye, I saw something fly across and off the table. I thought at first that it was a piece of lint or hair (you’d understand if you lived in a household of two Asian females with long, black hair, plus their mother), but then I realized that I felt no wind.

If there was no wind, it couldn’t be an inanimate object. Which meant it had to be something… alive.

It was like a Sherlock moment, except I’ve never seen Benedict Cumberbatch jump out of a chair, squeaking “F*ck!” at a pitch only dogs could hear.

I promptly did so, landing about three feet in the opposite direction of which the unidentified insect had gone. I then reached for an item with which to kill it with. My options were very limited, seeing as the table had the following items on it:

– Tape dispenser

– Paint palette

– Cup

– Yearbook

– Orchestra binder

– Sketchbook

– Laptop

With orchestra binder in hand, I carefully leaned down to inspect the ground.

The insect was nowhere to be seen. This was a matter of burgeoning panic. I desperately cast across the floor where I thought it had landed, finding nothing, when –

“F*ck!”

Just a foot away, that same something rushed several feet away from me. It was like a tumbleweed, drifting closely to the ground. An invisible tumbleweed.

Fast moving + invisible when still = terror

Bravely, I approached again, binder at the ready. It had once again vanished. It’s body had seemed like a pinpoint of black, and my mind was racing. This time, it was a several long and tense moments before –

“F*ck!” I exclaimed in my chipmunk voice again as the thing dashed away again. I then came to a horrible thought – could it be a daddy long legs spider?

In case you do not know what a daddy long legs is, or have never seen one (count yourself lucky), it is a type of spider that resembles a black teardrop the size of a squashed pinhead suspended on eight long, hair-thin, crooked legs.They run very quickly, and are quite common. I won’t provide a picture, for the sake of my sanity and yours.

*upon further research, I found this these following descriptions of where daddy long legs are common:

“These webs are constructed in dark and damp recesses, such as: caves, under rocks and loose bark, abandoned mammal burrows, and undisturbed areas in buildings.”

This was followed up with:

“However, Pholcids are also quite commonly found in warm, dry places, such as household windows and attics”

So essentially, they’re everywhere.

Wikipedia then presented this very upsetting map:

dl range

“Pholcids are found in every continent in the world except Antarctica where it is too cold for them to survive.”

Alright, folks. I’m moving to the Yukon.

dl range

Anyways, with images of a baby Pholcid finding a cozy home in my house, meeting a nice girl-spider, and spawning countless copies of itself running through my mind, I courageously advanced once again. My heart was pounding as I scrutinized every dark speck on the carpet, which being a textured carpet, was full of dark specks.

“F*ck!”

The little bastard dashed off towards the staircase.

I believed that by that third outburst, my blood pressure had near doubled. I had had enough. I threw down the binder and escaped to the safety of the basement, all while loudly bemoaning the existence of arachnids.

My mom only chuckled, while my dad quoted a few lines of a motivational speech at me in Chinese. Something about “not complaining about our circumstances” and “fighting our own battles.”

After I bothered them for a good thirty seconds, I sadly retreated back to the first floor. As I passed the kitchen, I noticed the the desserts I had baked for my recital and my mother’s dinner party the next day cooling innocently on the countertop.

I covered them with plastic wrap.

It’s a pretty awkward time of the year.

The end of school is on the sweet, sweet horizon, and summer is just ahead. It’s so close, yet so far.

In fact, I feel that this is more like the real end of the year. As a student, January the first just doesn’t carry the same significance that June the fourteenth, or whenever your school lets out. (This just happens to be the date for my school) If you think of it, the dead middle of winter is a pretty odd time to have new beginnings. After all, it is the dead of winter. Short days and low temperatures don’t exactly inspire new beginnings. Or if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, the middle of summer. The beginning of a season would make more sense, like the start of spring or summer – just like when school ends. But smack in the middle of the coldest (or hottest) season just doesn’t seem intuitive. Even the December solstice would make more sense.

I’ll remember this point for next year’s anti-New Years post.

Anyhow, as extracurriculars wrap up, and final concerts fly by, I’ve been getting in a reflective mood. It does seem like it’s been so long since last summer. So many things have happened – both amazing things and terrible things. (but probably mostly boring things. Life isn’t that exciting.) I guess this will be my end-of-school-year post, despite it being a month and a half early. Oh, how long that month and half seems from here.

It’s also been a long time since my last post, which was in winter break. This makes the topic of this post quite relevant as well, since I have a few new topics to draw from.

I’ve got to say, this has probably been my most… different year by far. The amount of new experiences really is unparalleled. I guess that’s expected for your freshman year. I finally entered the infamous land of High School, was thrown head-first into Symphony Orchestra (which I feel that I spent most of my time in that state of I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-playing-someone-save-me mode, which was very educational), joined a quartet, danced a whole lot, did more art, did more writing, made some friends, things like that. Of course, those are just the happy things. There were also sad things, of course, but I shan’t mope here. Both categories exceeded anything I had experienced before.

how intense life was chart

Looking back on it now, I realize that there are a lot of great things that happened in the past year, but I wasn’t all that much more happy because of them. I suppose happiness isn’t a total of how many good things happen, but a state of being. People probably tend to be more occupied by unhappy things than happy things. At least I know I do. So despite the increased happy things, the sad things that matched it didn’t leave much brainspace for being happy.

Something I spent a lot of time considering this year is inadequacy. The older you get, the more you compare yourself to others. I’m probably ripe for the age where the self-esteem floor drops out from you, and the innocent child you once were vanished, only to be replaced by an angsty, irritable, hormone-driven creature that is rarely seen without headphones on. Messy room, grumpy attitude, the whole package. (I can see you reading this, Mom.)

So essentially, the everything about being a teenager.

I think this is the bird-to-human equivalent, if childhood counts as being in the shell.

I guess people just hope they end up good looking,

with good friends,

and hitched to a decent significant other.

That is what people want, isn’t it?

Oh yeah, money too.

So the ugly teenager phase. Just the word “phase” itself defines it as something impermanent, like some sort of temporary spell. I guess it doesn’t help that adults always refer to “growing up” as a state to be reached, so I feel like I’m in some half-baked form all the time. It makes me wonder – are my thoughts even real, or are they a byproduct of my adolescence, something I only think I believe because it is the combination of my circumstances and the opinions I have adopted from others? It’s sort of like what Mark Twain said, except about personhood instead of ideas.

(It’s a long quote, but worth each word)

“Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that ‘plagiarism’ farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul — let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances — is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men — but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his.”

Mark Twain, in a letter to Hellen Keller on the topic of the accusations of plagiarism she faced for one of her stories (which was indeed, plagiarized). Published in Mark Twain’s Letters, Vol. 1 (1917) edited by Albert Bigelow Paine, p. 731.

This is probably a topic I’ll explore in more depth at a later date.

So being a teenager: I feel like there’s the standard many idealize, and then there’s the standard that the stereotype sets. One is a straight-A student with on-point witticisms, extracurricular stardom, and flawless looks. The other is an acne-pitted, cynical, hormonal beast that would do so well if only he applied himself. The difference is so huge, it’s comical.

Something that I’ve thought about recently is how much value we seem to place on being funny. From Twitter and Snapchat to seedy internet news distributors that pretend to be far more famous than they really are. It’s all about being totally relatable, so true, and I can’t believe I never thought of that. Humor is just the biggest factor out of them all in gaining popularity and attracting attention.

I can see why. Wit demonstrates one’s creativity, intelligence, and cultural literacy. Yet it is by far not the only measure of such, so why is it so important?

I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because we are entertained by it, and admire clever people. But my opinion remains that it is overvalued. Jokes help ease conversation along, but if they’re all you have, even the best jokes cannot replace actual connection. I feel like peoples’ immediate reactions to events are not to come up with personal responses, but to invent the driest remark and make sure the most people hear it. I, for one, am tired of thinking like that. That sort of constant stream of humor can only come naturally to so many. After hearing it all day long, I do wish people would be more genuine sometimes.

This post has been all over the place – I’m just getting my ideas out after a long time of not posting. I considered posting many times, but it seemed to get away from me every time. This had been a bit of a brain-barf, but I’m not overly concerned about having a direction in this post – I’m just glad I can write something again. Hopefully, with summer coming, I’ll have time to write more.

Until then,

antisprez

(There is also some more art up on my practice page)

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I finally got home from a weeklong trip to SoCal at about 6:30 in the morning. Despite not having slept (I don’t count a few seconds of intermittent dozing on the plane as sleep. They’re just inconveniences) in almost 24 hours, I was feeling oddly energetic. Maybe it was the excitement of starting the 2015. Maybe it was the relief of finally being back in home sweet way too frickin cold but still no snow Michigan home. Maybe it was the coffee my sister magnanimously bought me.

It was probably the coffee.

Anyhow, this family vacation was pretty good. I’ve learned not to put my expectations where brochures tend to push them – sky high, photogenic, made-for-Instagram perfect. I could plan out every single restaurant and sightseeing attraction, but in the end, something like the stupidly cold weather during the last couple days would turn up and ruin it. Or my family would just exist.

The first two days were especially unique because it was Christmas Eve and Christmas. That meant that the streets of San Diego were basically deserted, except for hoboes, and the occasional tourist/passerby. There were a few rare pockets of liveliness where there was a restaurant open, but for the most part, it was almost eerily empty. I thought that was a really special view of the city, and I barely recognized the streets we had walked when we returned a few days later.

Despite the constant OCD-triggering mispronunciations on behalf of my parents (Ranging anywhere from “Loshangeles” to “burrita” and the bizarre “clam” (Gaslamp). Don’t even get me started on teaching them “Balboa”), inconveniently rainy weather, and having to share a hotel room among all four of us at one point, it was pretty good. It wasn’t perfect, but it was an escape from routine life, and you can only mess up a trip to California so much. I’m just glad we didn’t crash the car.

So here’s a summary of what I got to see, do, and eat in seven days.

FOOD 

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Blackberry banana pancakes at The Mission Cafe, San Diego

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Strawberry shortcake at Chaumont Bakery and Cafe in Beverly Hills

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Everything bagel at The Bagel Shack, Forest Lake. (so amazing)

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Sweet potato fries at Urban Seoul

hand rolls

Hand rolls at temakira

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Dark chocolate and tiramisu gelato at Chocolat Cremerie, Gaslamp San Diego

The food was phenomenal. We went to a pretty big variety of Mexican, American, Japanese, Chinese, and French places (and also the iconic In-n-Out Burger).

Despite eating all this stuff, I somehow managed to mysteriously lose five pounds. I swear I’m not one of those people who metabolize at the speed of light, eating pizza and ice cream wherever they go. It must be the magic of SoCal.

PLACES (I promise there are exactly only eleven pictures in this slideshow – click through!)

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I really love traveling – there’s something so great about being able to briefly desert the surroundings you’re accustomed to and just immerse yourself in another place. It’s not about going to the “must see” attractions (see any pictures of Disneyland there? I don’t). It’s about experiencing something different. Even burrowing into a hotel bed and leaching off their free wifi (And cookies. And coffee. And tea.) is different. California is certainly something, and I’m grateful to have been able to live some of it.

I never saw the clock turn 12:00.

When the new year started, I was thousands of feet in the air, flying a few hundred miles per hour.. You see, my flight home from California was the night of New Year’s Eve. It left at around 11 pm California time, and arrived in Michigan at around 5 am, essentially cheating me out of both epic San Diego fireworks and awkward dinner parties back home (that I’m loathe to admit aren’t all that bad). Instead, I got a wailing infant directly behind me, three hours of nasty airplane air, and the great head of my sister resting what must have been rather uncomfortably on my bony shoulder. And let me tell you, those ten pounds started to hurt. I swear I could feel her scalp pulverizing straight through my spectacularly unremarkable lack of arm-flesh into my arm bones with every twitch. The thing was like a meat tenderizer, and boy, did my tricep meat feel tender afterwards. Such are the sacrifices of sisterhood.

TMI? Nah, you’re fine.

To be honest, though, it wasn’t all that bad.The combination of cabin lights turned down, music turned up, Biscoff cookies, and a lifetime supply of ebooks on my phone smoothly escorted the hours past in a pleasantly dim haze. I’ve got to say, it did also feel just a little bit special to be in the sky when the new year began. I can’t deny the idiotically large smile that grew onto my face when the plane accelerated down the runway and pulled into the air. It didn’t feel like just another liftoff – it felt like I was lifting off into somewhere special. 2015.

While I may have missed fireworks, cake and those lame television live streams of New York ball drop, I do get to say that I literally soared into the New Year. And that’s kinda awesome.

Oh, and I did get to see distant fireworks from above during my flight. Just through the clouds, I could see these faint, pulsing lights going off close together. I’m not sure what city that was, but it was pretty cool to see.

not actually this

 

As for anyone who was away from home on New Year’s Eve, you probably also got that funny feeling when everyone at home was firing off messages like “HAPPY NEW YEAR’S EVERYBODY” and you look at the clock and it’s something lame, like 9:38 PM. Either that, or you already finished celebrating and it’s already five in the morning.

So… yeah. It’s 2015. Kinda weird, kinda scary, and kinda stupid. I feel like my new year started somewhere in December, actually. It was when I started thinking about what I wanted to do and change, and honestly, I’ve been ready for a fresh start for some time now. New Year’s is a great point at which to make resolutions and stuff, but if you really think about it, that time should be whenever you want it to be. Back in the day, Julius Caesar was kind of just like, “Look, I think the year should start on this date,” and everybody just went “Okay,” because hey, he was Julius Caesar. Everything that happened after that was just a flurry of political and religious power-grabbing, and the calendar eventually ended up the way it is. In fact, there isn’t any actual natural event or reason, like an equinox or solstice, for the year to start on January 1st(well…1). It just does. Similarly, you don’t need a holiday or event to prompt renewal. All you need might be the right time, the right person, or heck, the right weather.

Happy New Year’s, folks.

-Antisprez

1. There kind of is. Perihelion party, anyone?

The Ideal Christmas

My Christmas

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The Ideal Christmas

My Christmas

The only gift here is the tree itself, which a guest gave us

The only gift here is the tree itself, which a guest gave us

The Ideal Christmas

A finely crafted Nativity scene, with lovely bokeh in the background

 

My Christmas

Not even Christian, what the heck am I celebrating

 

But hey, it’s not even Christmas. It’s Christmas Eve.

hi everyone

Fear not the depressing Christmas post, though, for it is not coming this year! It never will! Just like Santa!

On an even brighter note, new art is finally up! Well, not exactly new… I started this painting around June, and finished in September. (yeah, I was incredibly lazy and didn’t post it for months… I’m still not sure why.) It was definitely the toughest one yet, but it was a lot of fun. Check it out on my art page

Also, I promise new posts coming up soon. It’s been really busy with school, but I have a couple of ideas and a draft going on, so hopefully there will be a post or two within a week. There will for sure be a New Year’s Day post. Also, I’m going to be in California, so hopefully that result in a picture or two and some post inspiration.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas/Festivus/Whatever You Celebrate/Even if it’s Already Past!

My gift to you is this gorgeous song by the insanely talented Daniela Andrade, and an adorable puppy. But mostly just the puppy.

Listen to it and get depressed about not having that dog, my friends.

Hi.

*secretly high-fives everyone who found the hidden link*