Sunday, December 31, 2006

Finding Inspiration in Dreams

I had a most peculiar dream last night. I dreamt that I was at a dinner party, and suddenly someone was muttering some gibberish words made of letters spelled backwards, etc. At first no one knew what went on, then later we figured that they were codes, and in the future, people would search the archive or their memories for these clues and use them to change history.

It doesn't make sense, you say. Don't ask me. But if you can write a story based on this premise, go for it.

Part of the reason why I believe I should be a fiction writer is that I dream in stories. I don't dream personal anecdotes or snippets of memories. I dream in grand, epic stories in which I'm don't always take part -- meaning, I don't usually dream in first person. My dreams appear in scenes, complete with crane shots and soundtracks. They're bizarre, fantastical.

I know I should keep a notepad and pen on my night stand but I don't. Besides, I've tried writing down my dream the minute I woke up, and the results were often nonsensical gibberish that would make David Lynch proud. I still remember the one I had when I was about 19 -- a SF&F epic that would shame Dune in the absurdity department. I never wrote that. In fact, I never wrote any stories based on my dreams. I write literary crap, for crying out loud. What these dreams tell me, though, is that I have a vivid imagination ready to be unlocked. I really should tap into that and start exploring fantasies. I think my brain is trying to tell me something.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Well, it's here...

The Pittsburgh Magazine January Issue:

By gosh, the picture made me look fat! LOL LOL. I looked 10 pounds heavier. I have a picture taken on the same day and I didn't look like that.

I can't believe I could look so different. I guess it really depends on the camera and lighting.


The funny thing is, my mom is going to laugh so hard. Here's her chubby kid, all grown up and... chubby!

It's that time of the year again

New Year's resolutions. Gotta love them. In most cases, I think NYRs are things we tell ourselves that remind us: we're not so bad; we're not perfect, yet; and maybe, just maybe, we can be better.

I'm glad to report that I achieved almost all my 2006 resolutions. Obviously, I probably set my standard low. LOL. That's the smart way, to try to conquer mole hills instead of mountains.

This year, I think I'm going to continue the tradition and set my standard a bit low again:

1. Spend more time with people I love and respect and who love and respect me back. Life's too short.
2. To be more humble and try not to "brag" about anything.
3. Finish writing my second novel.
4. Finish at least five short stories and submit them.
5. Get at least one story published.
6. Live more healthily and exercise more.

I'll let you all know how I do in 12 months.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Pittsburgh Magazine

I just got words that I've been selected as one of Pittsburgh Magazine's 25 Most Beautiful People and will appear in their January 2007 issue.

More later, with links.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Amazing Art

Stumbled upon these while surfing. Simply amazing.

Amazing paper art (this guy use one sheet of A4 paper for each of these sculptures)

Interesting collaborative art project (you need Flash player for this).

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Bah Humbug!

Actually, I like Christmas. I love the songs and the festivities and the good cheers (I do know friends who absolutely HATE HATE HATE all of that - bah humbug indeed).

I dislike the commercialism. I dislike the materialism. I dislike the indulgence of children to the point of screaming "gimme gimme gimme." I dislike the whole bad-santa-sitting-at-the-mall-with-lines-of-screaming-children-asking-for-XBoxes-and-new-cell-phones thing. I dislike how stores start to pimp the holidays as early as October. I dislike the fact that for many people, Christmas only means presents and getting drunk on eggnog.

I have had many good Christmases at which none of these mattered. We only exchanged ONE gift each year, and it couldn't be extravagant. We went and sang carols at hospitals and nursing homes. We had parties to just hang out and catch up (without the alcohol). And every year we had an after Christmas party to extend the friendships with a White Elephant gift exchange. Those are the great memories I have. And now I just stay away from malls and shopping centers. It's getting ridiculous. Jesus would have been pissed.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

James Kim

Rescuers are still searching for CNET's senior editor James Kim. He and his family had been missing for days, but his wife and two young daughters were recovered Monday. Apparently they got stranded while taking a vacation at a lodge in Oregon. The family reached a point where the road became impassable but couldn't turn around after the weather had worsened, then the car ran out of gas. James Kim left the family on Saturday to look for help.

That's just awful, a family's worst nightmare. And none of the world's gadgetry such as cell phones or GPS could help, and James should know about the technologies. If you're stranded in the middle of nowhere, only survival skills and instincts can save you.

Authorities are optimistic about finding James Kim. Even though the terrain is harsh and it can get bone-chillingly cold at night, James is a resourceful man, and I am confident that he will make it. Finding his family is a big boost in the rescue effort, for James can't be too far off the site, from his family. Let's just pray that they find him, alive and well, soon.


Sad news. I just Googled "James Kim" to find more information about his rescue effort, but only 20 minutes ago there was news about his death. He might have survived if he had stayed with the family (his wife and children were safe). But out of love for his family and desperation, he went searching for help without any survival kits or (probably) techniques in the cold, snowy mountains.

I've been watching James Kim on CNET Network for a while now and found him pleasant, informative, and knowledgeable. It's a great loss, and my heart goes out to his family, colleagues, and loved ones.

Please say a prayer for James and his family.

Why the N-Word Matters?

Michael Richards has been in the news for a while now, and for good reasons. The n-word and the way he used it stirred up a shitstorm and brought up a lot of buried feelings on both sides. The situation reminded us that, in 2006, racism is alive and kicking.

Someone said, but it's just a word. Why do people get so pissed off by a word. Shouldn't we just ignore the word or try to desensitize it so that it's meaningless?

On a personal level, I agree that "you can only get hurt if you allow them." So many times I have heard racial slurs and epithets thrown at me, and my friends would be amazed by how calm and unaffected I seemed to be. They would say, "Aren't you mad? Don't you want to beat up that guy who just called you a stupid chink?"

To me, there is a time and place. Telling an ignorant fool that he shouldn't use that word, or getting myself all worked up doesn't solve anything, and I have long ago refused to be hurt by them. Otherwise, I wouldn't survive in a new world and I was determined to succeed. That was my resolution a long time ago and I still stick by it. Sticks and stones may break my bones.

It doesn't mean I don't see the damage a word like that can impart, especially on something young, or a new immigrant who needs to be accepted in this society. It's easier said than done with "you can only get hurt if you let them." For most people, these words are nasty, and they carry centuries of nastiness with them, and they still carry this nastiness in modern societies, where they are living RIGHT NOW. You can't just brush it away and say "these words don't matter." On an individual level, I do encourage all of us to empower ourselves, to educate ourselves, and to help eradicate these ugly words, not only from our vocabulary, but also from our consciousness.

But as writers, we have a responsibility with our words. We're not writers if we don't believe in the intrinsic power of words. People communicate through words, and it's silly to disregard the power of words by saying "it only has power if you give them." Otherwise, why do we still revere the following phrases if they were not by themselves powerful?

"Ask not what our country can do for us. Ask what we can do for our country."

"I have a dream..."

"A small step for man, a giant leap for mankind."

These particular words, and the particular ways they were spoken/written, are powerful because they speak the truth about humanity. The reverse could be said about words such as the n-word. They are not just words. They carry far more than the five or six letters. They encapsulate whole generations of ugliness, and to cast them away and say "oh, they are only powerful if you allow them to be" is to trivialize our history and our growth, to say "it didn't matter," and to pardon those who used them to maim and hurt.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

I'm The Devil

What do you know?

I Am The Devil

Materiality. Material Force. Material temptation; sometimes obsession

The Devil is often a great card for business success; hard work and ambition.

Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the major arcana, the Devil is not really "Satan" at all, but Pan the half-goat nature god and/or Dionysius. These are gods of pleasure and abandon, of wild behavior and unbridled desires. This is a card about ambitions; it is also synonymous with temptation and addiction. On the flip side, however, the card can be a warning to someone who is too restrained, someone who never allows themselves to get passionate or messy or wild - or ambitious. This, too, is a form of enslavement. As a person, the Devil can stand for a man of money or erotic power, aggressive, controlling, or just persuasive. This is not to say a bad man, but certainly a powerful man who is hard to resist. The important thing is to remember that any chain is freely worn. In most cases, you are enslaved only because you allow it.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

The Waiting Game

Waiting is tough. I admit I'm not a very patient person, and I used to be worse. It's fine to know something one way or another: yes or no. But don't give me a "maybe" and then ask me to wait another month. That's torture. "Not knowing" is one of the cruelest tortures because we can't let go. We have to dwell on it. We'll constantly shuffle between hope and dread, and we count the days like nothing else matters.

The thing to do, of course, is to tell yourself "forget about it; don't wait." It's easier said than done.

We will continue to wait -- just can't let it go. But there are ways to help us stop dwelling and maybe even temporarily forget about the waiting.

Keep yourself occupied. The busier the better.

If you have a family or kids, it should seem easier because you're so busy I doubt that you would have time to sit around and dwell on the wait. Every minute of your life is taken, and you'll be left with little more than a few minutes here and there, between changing diapers and scrubbing toilets, to catch a nap or take a bite of your stale sandwich. "Wait?" you ask. "What is that?"

Some of us are not so lucky. We have way too much time on our hands and we've already taken our 10th naps. It's time to walk around in circles and bite our nails again. What if they say yes? What if they say no? What if they don't even call? Then the angel on the left shoulder says, "Relax. Life goes on either way." And the devil on the right shoulder immediately snaps, "That's what a loser will say. You're a not a loser, are you?"

I do find some tricks to "fool" myself into forgetting about the wait. Obviously, one of them is to keep myself busy. Getting married and having babies right away seems out of the question -- and honestly, counterproductive -- but there are other things. Traveling, going out with friends, seeing movies, getting drunk. And, of course, making projects.

Usually, when I'm waiting on something, I'd launch myself into a million different projects: making a video, updating my website, cataloging my entire toenail clippings collection. (Okay, I'm not really that weird.) Of course, there's that darn novel to deal with but it's hard to keep myself occupied when I'm blocked, so writing (including updating my blogs) seems out of the question. And obsessing over a rewrite would only drive me crazier. Fortunately, I have many other hobbies. Unfortunately, they usually involve spending cash.

Then Bam! The result is in and I won't even see it coming.

Another thing to do is to curb my anticipation by concocting various alternatives based on the expected results of my wait. What does that mean? I mean I would start making a list of what I want to do once the wait is over, that I'm free from it all:
  • I can finally take that vacation!
  • I can finally shave my head
  • I can finally get rid of those notes and 14 versions of the damn file
  • I can finally schedule that botox appointment and disappear for three weeks
  • I can finally plan my funeral

The trick usually works to calm myself to the point that I'm almost ready to let go. I say "almost" because life is not fair, and being human is all about being neurotic. And what's more neurotic than plunging myself into that yes-no-maybe cycle all over again and then come up with yet another list of things to do AFTER the wait is over?

That should keep me busy for another two hours.

See you later.