On President-Elect Trump, 1000 Rupee notes, Toblerone and Standardized Testing

Since my last post a week ago, the world has changed a lot. I’m still in shock. The US got a new president-elect, India tried to reduce corruption by banning it’s largest notes, the Toblerone triangles have become smaller and I finished with standardized testing. I have opinions on all 4 of these, so here it goes.

President Trump? 

Image result for president trumpI’m shocked to hear there were so many closet-Trump supporters. Coming from a region and a state which voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, I have to admit that part of it is because we created an echo-chamber around ourselves. A lot of the comments I saw on Facebook from Trump supporters were illogical, biased and frightening. But, I saw a good portion of aggressive comments and straw-men fallacies from Clinton supporters too. When they did bother to give explanations, they were condescending  or they were hidden insults. I can see why so many Trump supporters refused to state their preference until election-day, and I can’t blame them for it.

Democrats clearly aren’t in touch with large sections of the population. Lots of people have compared this election to Brexit with frustrated, disappointed people wanting change (no matter how it comes about). Clearly, the DNC alienated anyone who might have had doubts about Hillary Clinton for presidency. I’m willing to believe that majority of Trump’s supporters are not racist or misogynistic. I hope that America’s checks and balances are enough to prevent an inexperienced and impulsive president from doing too much damage. The alternative is too horrifying to consider.

But, there are silver linings to this. The President and majority party in House and Senate are all from one party. Things will probably be executed much faster and if by 2020 things haven’t gotten better, Democrat’s will probably have a younger, candidate to get behind. Also, as divisive some of the stuff in the news has been– hijabs being pulled off, violence against blacks and insane sounding rants about the wall– I think people will pull together. As a women of color, I do not like the president-elect we have right now, but I do believe in the power of people and America’s principles of democracy.

No 500 or 1000 Rupee notes in India

Image result for 1000 rupee note ban

Well played, Modi. Well played. If this works as planned, people with black-money will be unable to exchange their currency. This would reduce the amount of money in circulation and make the Indian Rupee stronger compared to currencies. Smart. I’m proud that India’s finally taking a strong stance against corruption.

But dammit, I have a couple of 500 rupee notes (just to clarify–gifts from relatives, not black money) and no way to exchange them since all Indian banks are in, you know, India.

Image result for new tobleroneToblerone

I am always impressed by Britisher’s priorities. I love their very droll way of defending why it’s so important to them. So far, my favorite is hearing them use world politics–they do need a way to comfort them after the Trump election. There was an explanation about Switzerland’s mountain peaks, but I didn’t quite get it. Anyone care to explain?

Standardized Testing

Image result for sat testingUS universities require a ridiculous amount of tests and place way too much value on them.Standardized test cost money to take and even more to send. I always feel very guilty when I don’t do as well on them as I do on practice tests. In my area, SAT tutoring is common–but I just don’t feel comfortable shelling out a couple thousand dollars to increase my score by 100 points or so.  It’s hard to believe that Collegeboard, the agency which is in charge of the SAT tests (and private financial aid, and AP testing and a lot of other US university stuff) is a non-profit when it charges for everything.

I’ve taken the old and new SAT, but not the ACT (which everyone tells me was stupid). This week, I got my second subject test out of the way; I wish I had done it earlier. Now, I don’t have to worry about standardized testing until the AP exams in May….joy.

 

I definitely do live in interesting times.

10 tips to 50K: The longer version

Image result for nanowrimo pic

Last year, I did the 50000 word marathon. I wrote a (part of) a very twisted Snow White story from the Stepmother’s point of view. In it, Snow White’s  a murderous pre-teen who killed animals and people and used their blood, bone and ashes as makeup.  Here’s an excerpt from the first “chapter” (I use quotes because it’s not quite organized and developed).

Though I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year (college apps, test prep and my course-load is keeping me busy this month), I did complete it last year.

I do have some um…wisdom for those brave souls who’re trying it this year. Without much ado,

  1. Don’t be intimidated by the number 50,000.  All you need to do is write. You could write fanfiction or a collection of poetry and short-stories. You could keep a diary. If you’re capable of writing a 50,000 word shopping list, you could do that.
  2. Find friends to write with. They’ll keep you on track and they’re very helpful to bounce ideas off of.
  3. Don’t aim for perfection.  These 50,000 words are just your first draft.
  4. Don’t edit as you write. I like to use white text so I’m not tempted to correct my typos and horrendous grammar.
  5. If you can’t think of anything, write anyways. Eventually you’ll stumble onto something good.
  6. Don’t erase anything. Even if you manage to get your protagonist sucked into a black-hole or vortex (and you didn’t mean to), keep it. You might want to reuse parts of it later. Just start that chapter again. Hopefully, it’ll end the way you want it to this time.
  7. Plan out a general plot. There’s nothing worse than having your protagonist or villain get killed off by the time you reach 10,000 words.
  8. Write every day. 1667 words aren’t too much to write in a day. But, when you put it off for a week, you will kick yourself when you realize 11,667 words to get back on schedule.
  9. At the same time, if you put it off for more than a couple days, don’t give up. It’s not impossible to get back on track.
  10. Strangely enough, the goal of NaNoWriMo isn’t to get you to write a novel in a month—it’s to get you to start writing. If you want to extend your NaNoWriMo into December, it’s your choice.

So if anybody noticed the title of this post, the “long version” part is confusing. I wrote an abbreviated list for my school newspaper, The Oracle. If you’re curious about that, it’s over here.

 

Misery, Happy Ever Afters and the In-Between

“HAPPY EVER AFTER
is a concept I’ll never believe
in. I would be content to sample
some little taste of happiness
today, tonight, right now.”

-Ellen Hopkins, Identical

I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t want a happy ever after for themselves. We want it all- the dream job, the loyal friends, the supportive friends and the impossibly perfect significant other. Of course, I still haven’t met anybody who wants to struggle before finding their happy ending. Nobody wants to fail classes or make mistakes. Nobody wants to lie to the people they care most about. Most of all, nobody wants to admit that they want to be the happiest, most fortunate person in the crowd even if it comes at the expense of other people.

But when it comes to books, the rules are all different. I’ve heard friends jokingly (or maybe not so jokingly) give characters “misfortune points”. For example, Harry Potter scores pretty damn highly because he’s an orphan, his aunt and uncle abuse him and he has a great and terrible destiny placed on his skinny 11 year old shoulders. It’s weird, but at the same time it feels natural.

I know enough psychology to recognize that humans think happiness is relative. It’s the reason we have idioms like ‘competing with the Jones” and why economists suggest it’s funner to be the richest person in a poor neighborhood instead of the poorest one in a significantly richer neighborhood. As awful as it sounds, we humans derive some happiness out of other people’s misery. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel…icky.  Books are one of the few places where we can feel gleeful about other people’s misfortunes and not feel guilty about it. It’s like buying new things without ever spending the money (ie getting stuff for free).  Characters are not real people so it’s okay to love that their lives are messed up.

So, according to that theory I should love mournful endings. I should love the plays that end with lovers dying in each other’s arms, or the clever, hot detective throwing himself off a waterfall. Right?
Except I don’t. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I loathe miserable endings where everyone cries at a funeral. Okay, fine I’ll say it. It’s the truth. Why would I want to go through 400 pages of sadness and getting attached to characters just so that they can be killed off/ addicted/ diagnosed with a terminal disease/ heartbroken/ all of these at the same time?

So what’s my alternative? Powdered sugar covered gum drop happy ever afters (HEA)? No thanks, I don’t particularly enjoy the way the sugar gets in your nose and makes you sneeze. I detest the way the remains of the gum drops stick between your teeth. Candied happy ever afters are definitely not my thing. I don’t want my ending to be final and finite. For one thing it’s not realistic, for another it’s…. boring.

“And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live.”
― Stephen King, The Dark Tower

I want the character’s lives to stretch on and on, with the promise of a new story somewhere in the future (near-future is preferable). I like thinking that I’ve watched the characters evolve over the course of a story. I want to feel confident in the fact that
whatever difficult comes up, they’ll be equipped to handle it.

I guess that means my ideal ending is a happy for now (HFN). For a romance novel, it can mean white dresses and church bells. But, it also means long arguments about who broke the coffee machine and whose turn it is to wash dishes. For adventure books, it means that they’ve defeated their enemy but they know more enemies are likely to rise.

Like I’ve said before, happy is a relative concept. Not just in books but in real life as well. Go find your happiness. Let the dissatisfaction and ambition kick in. Then go find your new happiness.

“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy. It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”

-Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell

 

Circles: Freewrite

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Every day, circles loop infinitely in my head.

I know circular reasoning with it’s strange ability to tangle your head like endless, knotted string. I empathize with the philosopher who wanted to know which came first: the chicken or the egg because I am equally puzzled. My question is is whether I created stories or  became Image result for ouroborosa voracious reader first.


As I ponder this strange matter, I’ve felt my mind turn in an ouroboros, my own logic eating me from the inside out. Do I love reading because I am addicted to seeing a character be built, piece by piece until they’ve turned into someone that can almost breathe, eat and dream?  Do I write stories because I revel in smashing together the plots of the 40 books I read in the last month, watching the weird chunks fall away and my favorite parts meld?  Do I like writing short stories and poetry because they’re echoes of the bookImage result for circless I’ve read and loved and just a more active, involved form of reading? I see the sense in both theories but no way of verifying an answer. So, in the mean-time  I am content to read and write and accept both as equal loves.

I appreciate the irony of coming full circle. It’s when you go so far, travel so long- only to end right where you began. The path between California and India is my mobius strip. At age 8, I moved to the Californian bay area and then at 10, I moved halfway around the world to India. 7 years hence, I am back exactly 19 miles from where I started, eager to fling myself off the mobius strip.

Image result for circles

In my head, I hear my own question what’s the point of this strange exercise? Why circles? Why are you looking at it from so many different perspectives when it’s essentially the same? Somewhere in me there’s an answer, but it’s hard to explain exactly how a circle is essentially multiple points equidistant from one important point.

 

Because you could say the same for life, couldn’t you? Everyone’s life is almost uniformly similar, revolving around an individual who thinks they are the center of their universe. There’s birth, there’s childhood, there’s adulthood and creating new children and then there is death. But something in me recoils from describing life this way. Of courImage result for circlesse, this is life, but like any circle, it has some intangible quality which somehow, miraculously makes it more. The circle of life is almost sacrosanct.

Within my self-absorbed life too, I draw circles. There’s a tiny circle around me- I guess you could
call it a bubble. Then there are circles of varying radii. My friends and family in my inner circle.  My past and my future in separate circles which flow into each other. The jogger who I’ve never seen before but who just ran past me, wearing a yellow top and in time to some beat I can’t hear — she’s in a distant, distant circle of mine too, isn’t she? From my perspective, the only unifying bond in this wacky Venn diagram is me.

I’d say life is circles. But somehow that doesn’t seem encompassing enough. Because even though I haven’t experienced death or inanimation yet, I’m sure they’re circles of their own too. Circles are crazy thoughts and they ring around me almost tauntingly. Circles are the beautiful brain-child of a sentinent being far more advanced than me. Circles are infinite and circles are limited. They are contradictory, but they are oh so simple. 

And yet, when’s the last time you drew a perfect circle freehand?

 

The Creepiness of Arctic Monkeys

I’m not usually an Arctic Monkeys fan but as I was listening to ‘I Want to be Yours’, I was just blown away by the hidden message of the song. It’s utterly creepy because so many people miss it.

 

I Want to be Yours by Arctic Monkeys shows how some people use love to manipulate the people around them into doing what they want. Though initially the song sounds like a romantic love ballad in which the singer promises he’ll be anything his lover needs, close listening to the song highlights nefarious undertones.

The first suggestion that something is wrong is the third line : “I wanna be your Ford Cortina/ I will never rust”.   Ford Cortina are trucks which are particularly vulnerable to rust. Already, the singer is making promises he will never be able to keep and perhaps has no intention of keeping. In this light, the opening line has a new connotation. “I want to be your vacuum cleaner.” heavily implies that he wants to suck his lover into something via means of force.  

The chorus “Maybe, I just want to be yours./ I just want to be yours/ I just want to be yours” then becomes suspect. One has to wonder why the songwriter used “maybe” . If he wasn’t sure he was in love with the person he sings the song to, how  likely  is it that he would humble himself by promising to do whatever it took to make his lover happy? (And sincerely mean it too.) The word “ Maybe” suggests manipulation. The repetition of “I want to be yours” emphasizes the singer is trying too hard to convince his lover that his desire is innocuous. 

After that, he tries to guilt his lover into doing what he wants. He emphasizes how high-maintenance his lover is by going over all the daily things that he/she needs to stay happy like “stay-in lotion”. He reminds his lover how long they’ve been together by referring to mundane, every-day domestic things like “Vacuum cleaners” and “coffee pots”(they probably bought together). Also, “I want to breathe in your dust” subtly reminds his lover that he/she has faults, but the singer is willing to overlook them.  

“You call the shots, babe”, he reminds his lover as if he/she is the only one can give him what he needs. But  I think “shot” could refer to a tequila shot (alcohol),  implying the singer is trying to influence her decision.  Rather worryingly, he refers to “a secret” which is “hard to keep”. The random throwing in of the over-poetic, over-blown metaphor“Deep as the deep Atlantic ocean/ That’s how deep is my devotion” makes it clear that the singer is appealing to his lover’s desperate desire to be loved.

This song is inadvertently ironic since it’s a popular song to which people lose their virginity.  High school boys are notorious for convincing their girlfriends to have sex with them by using arguments such as “If you really loved me”. The song seems to be a warning against people who use love to manipulate people.

Emotional manipulation, and bold-faced lying often leads to emotional abuse and physical abuse. Whether you’re male or female, vulnerable or not- be careful.  If somebody close starts using their love for you as an excuse, or demanding something because you love them- run. Distance yourself from that relationship as quickly and as definitively as possible. Don’t let anyone use love as an excuse to manipulate you. Your significant other doesn’t have that right. Neither do your friends or your parents. 

Weird Stalkery Subject Lines

So PSAT results came out about a week ago and I think I made a mistake checking the box that allows College Board to release my information. My inbox is flooded with messages from colleges who think I would be a good match for them (on what basis, I don’t even know- considering CollegeBoard doesn’t share PSAT scores). Some messages are spammy, some are downright stalkery. Here are some gems:

  1. <my name>, I’m interested in you. 
  2. You have the motivation we’re looking for.
  3. Study Biology in Washington D.C.
  4. We’re different- with purpose. 
  5. See your future, <my name>
  6. <my name>, you caught my attention.
  7. You’ve been chosen ….(This was particularly creepy since I just watched The Island) 
  8. You’ll love it here, we promise
  9. You’ve been selected <my name>
  10. We’ll give you a lifetime experience, in just 4 years. 

I’ve been unsubscribing and ignoring e-mails left and right (although I was seriously tempted by U Miss’s free gift). Colleges want to give me guides on how to choose colleges, but all I can think of is people asking their barber if they need a haircut.

I’d rather not have the spam. For the first 5-10 messages, it was flattering. Then it got annoying. Now I’m wondering if I’m going to have to live with this for the next year.

I just feel that these mass e-mails are very unpersonal especially since colleges are trying to appeal to you on an emotional level. From what I’ve heard, if I sent such an impersonal essay for the ‘Why College X’ prompt, I’d be promptly removed from consideration.
I don’t know- it just feels hypocritical.

Creative Writing

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have”

School reopens for me in another couple of days. And I forsee disorientation in my near future. Not just because I’ll have to go back to my normal schedule of waking at 6, going to sleep at 11 and doing a shit ton of homework in between but also, because my school schedule has changed a bit.

One thing that’s changed is my English class. My school is pretty cool because in Junior year we’re allowed to choose an English elective like Myth, Escapist Literature, Film Literature, Philosophy through Literature, etc. for a semester. The other semester we’re supposed to go back to Jane Eyre and Hamlet. Last semester, I took Creative Writing as my English Elective.

“Writing is like daydreaming through your fingers.”
-Jenna Alatari

I can say with absolutely no hesitation that it is my favorite class of all time. My teacher was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She was funny, understanding and she offered thorough and in-depth critique on our work.

The class offered a lot of autonomy. We spent a lot of writing- sometimes on prompts given to us. One of my favorite prompts was given to us during Homecoming week. We were given the bare bones of a scene: guy walks up to girl, asks her to the dance and is slapped. We were supposed to write from a unique PoV. Somebody wrote from the PoV of a sports commentator, someone wrote from the perspective of a rose. I think someone wrote a rap and someone else recorded it in the form of several tweets.  Sometimes the guy was 40 years old, sometimes the girl had a boyfriend. Sometimes the rose was fake. Sometimes the boy was a poor guy who was bullied. (I wrote a monologue of an auctioneer who was trying to sell a bunch of demons the guy’s broken heart).

“Writing is the high alchemy of the soul that combines words and ideas to create magic.”
-Sharif Khan

The best part about the class was (I’m being cheesy, I know) were the people.  The thing about creative writing classes is that they generally attract several creative people who are interested in writing. As a result, we had such cool pieces that were so different. I am in awe of how smart my classmates were and the ideas they had. Creative writing is hugely collaborative and it increases camaraderie ; we spent a lot of time critiquing other people’s work and having people critique our work. I bounced a lot of ideas off other people. I like to think I contributed equally to other people.

“Does any program really improve anybody, as much as simply identifying them?
-Chang Rae Lee

I got some pretty amazing writing from this class. I became a lot more confident weaving in detail and dialogue into my short-stories. I wrote a piece that I’m ridiculously proud of. It’s rather innocuously titled ‘Dirty Laundry’ but it is a bunch of interlinking scenes of a twisted, poisonous relationship between two sisters.

If you’re still in high school, you should consider taking a creative writing class. (Especially if you’re at Gunn). It’s an immensely rewarding experience. It’s fun, it’s a good place to make friends and it improves your confidence and writing skills.