Sidelines and Sessions

2009/03/20

Hello, spring break, my old friend.

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 8:55 am

I just pulled my first legitimate all-nighter in college. I woke up at 2pm Wednesday, and edited and rewrote my term paper for Southern Literature and Culture. I still feel horrible about missing so many classes for Dr. Wilson this quarter, especially since I did so well on my papers, so I decided I was going to earn this A with the best damn paper I’d ever written. As a result, I worked from 2pm yesterday to 11am today, reworking my original draft through five more drafts.

Yes, five. And I would have done more. I have mad respect for Dr. Wilson.

So I sent it in ’round ten am, waited for housekeeping to finish with my bathroom (bless them!) and took the best nap I have ever had.

Then, I woke up at 6, went to dinner with my dad at Ackerman Union – he had Panda, I had Rubio’s. Then, to Royce, with two tickets to see Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, and Five Peace Band, courtesy of UCLALive and my friend Russell, who had to fly north to oversee recording with the Scattertones. $25 for father-son time in the Carnegie Hall of the West? Not bad.

Then, hot chocolate from Sproul Hall and Eat’N’Park smiley cookies (wow, Mom!)

To top it off, Buzz down the hall reactivated his WoW account, so I got some playing time in.

I am officially done with winter quarter.

This is a good way to start spring break.  I may not be planning to be catatonic in Cancun or make out in Mazatlan, but simple pleasures – jazz with pop, smiley cookies dunked in hot chocolate, and the total nerd rage of ganking with my blood elf rogue – set the tone for what promises to be a hella chill spring break.

…that said, Arkae, Mani, and I need to finish the script.

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2009/03/19

I love James Michener.

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 9:58 am

I just discovered him recently, and realized how very behind I’ve been on American culture. Between all the science fiction and fantasy I read as a kid and all the non-fiction I’m forced to read now, it’s hard to find a book so carefully researched to be brain food and so intensely written that you can’t help but read it, even if you’re halfway through the first draft of an essay due in 14 hours.

I’m reading Michener’s Hawaii. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Michener’s work (depressing thought!) he focuses in on a place – Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii – and traces its history from geological formation to the present (well, the present he’s writing from, so 1959 in this case,) focusing on the groups that come and settle there (in chronological order) and how they and their desecendents deal with newcomers, changing times, etc. So in Hawaii, the Polynesians migrate to Hawaii, meet the missionaries and whalers, then the Chinese, and the Japanese, with family geneologies, intermarriages, and relationships alluded to throughout. All main characters are fictional reflections of individuals and forces in the region’s history – a trained eye will recognize the players under different names, and someone looking into Hawaii after reading will recognize some characters with delight. Shigeo Sakagawa, the smart, pushy Nisei army vet who fought in Italy and went to Harvard, is Senator Spark Matsunaga “through a mirror, darkly,” while the Hales, Hoxworths, and Whipples reflect Sanford B. Dole (yes, of the pineapples) and the missionaries that overthrew the native Hawaiian monarchy and forced American annexation.

It’s a monster of a book (937 pages) so I skimmed it first. Reading it slowly the second time, I found a passage that sang to me. It’s a conversation between Bromley Hale and his father, Hoxworth. Hoxworth is the latest and most powerful scion of the missionary families that ruled Hawaii. Bromley, his son, has just gotten expelled from Punahou for a brilliant and scandalous essay on the missionaries. The two talk at night:

“You and your father and all your generations used to sit up here, Dad, and look down at Honolulu and dream of controlling it. Every streetcar that ran, every boat that came to port did so at your command. I appreciate that. It’s a noble drive, a civilizing one. Sometime’s I’ve caught a glimpse of such a life for myself. But it’s always passed, Dad. I just don’t have that vision, and you’ve got to find someone who has, or you and I will both go broke.

“Don’t you have any vision at all?” Hoxworth asked quietly, back in the shadows.

“Oh, yes!” The handsome young fellow pointed to Honolulu, lying tribute beneath them, and confided for the first time to anyone: “I want to control this city too, Dad. But I want to bore into its heart to see what makes it run. Why the Chinese buy land and the Japanese don’t. Why the old families like ours intermarry and intermarry until damned near half of them have somebody locked away in upstairs rooms. I want to know who really owns the waterfront, and what indignities a man must suffer before he can become an admiral at Pearl Harbor. And when I know all these things, I’m going to write a book…maybe lots of them…and they won’t be like the ones you read. They’ll be like The Grandmothers and Without My Cloak, books you’ve never heard of. And when I know, and when I have written what I know, then I’ll control Honolulu in a manner you never dreamed of. Because I’ll control it’s imagination.”

Sweetest passage I’ve ever read. Makes me want to be a writer all over again.

And I needed to temporarily exorcise Michener, who’s been haunting my thoughts all day now. Maybe I can actually finish the Southern Lit and Culture essay due today.

HOKAY, back to work.

2009/03/18

On Comments

Filed under: UCLA life — spsukaton @ 8:40 am

I posted a story to my Facebook profile about the Catholic prohibition on condoms and the AIDS epidemic in Africa. It’s still up, if you’d like to see it. While I posted another link on Shari’a and the UN (by Christopher Hitchens, who is a very good polemicist, though I disagree with a lot of things he has to say) right after, all the comments went to the Pope-and-condoms story.

It got taken over almost immediately by two acquaintances of mine: A former colleague from the UCLA Library who is an outspoken secular humanist and atheist, and a friend from freshman year of high school who’s a political conservative and traditionalist Catholic.

Yikes. Sam (the atheist) jumped in on Andrew’s (the Catholic) response to my first question almost immediately, and it just went forward from there. I won’t post it all here, but Sam took up a cudgel against what he saw as sex-negative and unscientific Catholic theology, while Andrew moved in to defend abstinence against a culture of selfishness, saying a condom allowed for pleasure without consequences.

Looking back at the intense comment thread, it seems like I picked a good topic. It’s really interesting to see how and why people take stands, and I like giving people soapboxes to do that. I think it’d be interesting to run a political blog, or the editorial/op-ed page of a newspaper, and dedicate myself to honing my own arguments and those of others, making sure points are sharp but clean, intellectually honest, emotionally gripping.

I like comments – making them, reading them, moderating them, even when I get caught in the crossfire. This was fun – I left to get dinner(breakfast?) at In’N’Out, and they were still going. That was cool. While I think I’ll pick something that’s not contraception next time, I want to try my hand at editing and moderating commentary – journalist as gatekeeper and referee of civil dialogue.

Thoughts?

2009/03/15

(Un)Disciplined Blogging.

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 2:03 am

Does anybody have advice on disciplined blogging?

It seems that I only blog when I have better things to do. In this particular case, I have two writing finals Monday, a philosophy paper due Tuesday, and a literature paper due Thursday. Add to that my voluntary contribution of a piece on EFCA for Spectrum, and I have a hell of a week to beat before spring break.

With all that breathing down my neck and trickling into my subconscious, what am I doing? Blogging.

This brings up questions.

Why am I doing this?

Well, I obviously don’t want to work. Thinking about a blog is considerably less stressful than chewing my way through Kant’s ethics or Faulkner’s obsession with sex, race, and death in the South. Blogging is an escape.

Is there something else you can/should be using this blog for?

Yes. I started this thing to showcase my work and play with possible ideas for long-form articles, essays, and columns. This blog is supposed to be a commonplace book and staging ground. I’m not writing for the rest of the quarter, though, so I’m not obsessing about column ideas yet. I should be putting down ideas for work in here, but since I’m supposed to be studying for finals though I’m not, it seems as if any productive work I’m doing can get shot down.

What’s your problem, then?

I don’t know. But I sure as hell know I shouldn’t be treating this like Internet survey memes – “oh, I’m going to do this survey because I’m hella bored.” I can do more with it, and I should.

2009/03/11

Supersemar:

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 3:30 am

Today is the 43rd anniversary of a successful Indonesian coup d’etat.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supersemar

Can you imagine someone Alex Hamilton holding a gun to George Washington’s head and forcing him to give up power?

That’s Supersemar.

It’s kind of depressing.

Chancellor Block, lace up your shoes.

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 3:06 am

HOKAY, so we all know that colleges are strapped for cash right now. Antioch College has closed, Harvard’s not letting in transfer students and the UC system just got screwed again. Not that I blame Sacramento anymore – the problem’s bigger than it is.

The question of college financing is bigger than any set of people involved in it, certainly. Students, administrators, faculty, government (sorry, Kelly!) and banks will all have to reckon with a new and fair system of paying for college. What can we do in the short term to shore up college coffers, though?

I found an interesting solution on the Spectrum website. For those of you who don’t know my browsing habits, Spectrum comments and reports on the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (in which I grew up) and its environs, giving a “critically loyal” perspective – it’s aimed at pastors, academics, and laity with uncomfortable questions and comments. Apparently, an SDA college president runs marathons to raise money for scholarships. His running programs have pulled about $190,000 so far – chump change when looking at UCLA, perhaps, but a sizeable amount nonetheless.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? we’ve got plenty of people running, walking, and dancing to save little kids, cure AIDS, end poverty, whatever.

Here’s an idea: Why can’t we take that energy and idealism and work on ourselves?

I’m sorry if I sound callous; those are all wonderful things, but our own capacity to give depends on how much we have. I don’t give a lot – I know both of my parents are working to put and my sister (!) through school. As a result, I fight to keep as much money as I can to use on myself and I pay my tithe regularly in the belief that God will boomerang it back my way in His inscrutable time. Also, I have a huge change drawer in my room.

I wonder if we could cultivate a running program like Oakwood’s to earn money for student scholarships? USAC could administer it, or a seperate entity like Dance Marathon. Who’s with me?

2009/03/09

Fatigue

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 9:34 am

It creeps up slowly, and at the most inopportune times. When you want it, it retreats, teasing you like that cute girl from seventh grade. When you decide to abandon it, it crashes down, a wave that sweeps the will to be out of you.

I’m feeling two kinds of exhaustion. The obvious first kind is the feeling of someone blogging at two-thirty in the morning, when insomnia begins to bow out and the creeping tiredness that’s toyed with the fringes of your mind since 10 comes down like a thunderbolt of abject misery.

The next is the unique exhaustion that students on the UC’s quarter system feel. Silence has descended over UCLA in what we call the 22 Hours of Quiet – so people can study in the week leading up to finals. Dead week is what we call it, and the world – even in bright LA spring – seems dead indeed.

Winter quarters and I don’t do well. Last year’s winter quarter was the first time my grades dropped. I anticipate the same will happen here. It’s something that needs to change.

So I’ll start now by going to sleep, as I have a class at 9. Good night.

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