Sidelines and Sessions

2009/04/20

And the heat goes on…and the heat goes on.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — spsukaton @ 9:06 pm

When I was in high school, I gave a speech comparing a girl to a diamond – transformed by the pressure of her home life and the heat of her passion for other people. I didn’t get a date out of it, but it was great fun. I can’t remember my speech verbatim, but I have it written down somewhere. It’s probably one of my better turns of phrase.

I’d make the same point about UCLA, but the heat is just sucking the charm and wit out of me right now.

I feel that UCLA’s like a toaster, with the Asian students as piece of toast – blackened on one edge (hair) honey-browned where the sun hits, and paler under their clothes.

I expect I’m going to get hella darker by the end of the week. It’s good to have Malay blood – we tan well.

This heat is ridiculous. It was mid-60s Friday afternoon, and I was wearing a polo, board shorts, and tsinelas on Sunday night at midnight. Way to mess around with the weather, California. You suck. And you’re probably going to get me sick. Again.

I’m in Covel as I write this. I’m going to walk to office hours in Bunche and chill (literally) until 3:30. PEACE.

LOL WUT SOOOO HOT.

2009/04/19

On Education:

There are stronger schools than UCLA. They’re not nearly as prestigious, certainly, but they’re much more interesting, as the whole school aims at cultivating a person, rather than processing a product. The UC system has few differences now than in the days of Mario Savio:

“… then I tell you something — the faculty are a bunch of employees! And we’re the raw material! But we’re a bunch of raw materials that don’t mean to have any process upon us, don’t mean to be made into any product, don’t mean to end up being bought by some clients of the university, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We’re human beings!”

This isn’t to say that nothing’s changed. The game is different, certainly. There are more people from poor backgrounds, ethnic, religious, or sexual minority backgrounds in college. And colleges cater to these folks more. Case in point: Samahang Pilipino and its attendant projects and UCLA’s overlapping network of P-orgs, sororities, fraternities, etc. is enormous and enormously popular. Everybody knows someone in SPACE, SPEAR, Samahang Modern.

But really, what’s the difference between 1968 and 2009? Savio’s complaint is still the same. Students are walking out of high school and into college and being built into workers in the metaphorical American vineyard – political consultants, lawyers, health professionals,academics, journalists (I cringe in self-recognition) and community organizers.

Don’t be fooled. “Community organizer” is a professional title. Activism is an industry, not always tied to the neighborhood work of a PTA or a Little League. One can make a living as an agent of social change, which sounds strange. I’m not accusing anyone, left or right, of selling out. I’m just saying that education’s main purpose – to build quiescent professionals – continues unabated, accusations of liberal or conservative brainwashing aside. Most everyone wants a decent job, two and a half kids, two cars in the garage, and a mortgage.

And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Making money is nice. Doing satisfying work for money is even nicer. College is a good place to figure out what kind of work satisfies you and upping your marketability before being sent out into the vineyard and winepress that is America.

But in regards to education, UCLA gives me headaches sometimes. I catch whiffs of careerism when I amble up Bruin Walk. I taste the dry and dusty aroma of those folks who’re here to educate themselves in the traditional college sense, to develop a way of life and thought in the time they’re here. I identify with both, but with the scholars more.
And, of course, I run into people that are wasting time and money because they don’t know or care what they’re doing with their lives. But that’s always going to happen.

But back to my first point – there are schools out there that don’t have this kind of institutional schizophrenia. They cater directly to would-be professionals, or to those who want to kill four or five years toying with ideas, or those who want to spend the first four years of their adult lives in some sort of stupor.

Take, for example, the small liberal arts college, with reputation but little name recognition among the people. My neighbors know UCLA well. They probably wouldn’t recognize Reed, Sarah Lawrence, or Bard. My dad recommended I look into those. In retrospect, I probably should have.

A colleague (who will remain nameless out of respect for his privacy) of mine mentioned that his brother went to Sarah Lawrence, and it wasn’t a good experience – it messed him up morally, is what I think my colleague said. Forgive me for what might sound like irrepressible hubris, but I’d be down for a challenge like that – having to rearrange my intellectual furniture in such a way as to take in what’s going on.

That said, I’m kind of glad I’m here. Sarah Lawrence or Reed might have given me a sharper mind, perhaps. But UCLA’s already given me sharper elbows. The places is cold, unfriendly, as a friend has been bemoaning. It’s hard to build friendships without being assertive, pushy – and too much pushy is always a turnoff. My roommate and I talk about this every now and again – what would it have been like at William and Mary, or Reed, or one of the Seven Sisters? My dad ribs me about not going to UCSC every time I go home. And, halfway through college, on a Sunday night working on a history paper, I have to drift off and ask myself – “what if I had gone to a smaller school, a more wonky school?”

But that’s a door I’ve closed, personally – I’m not transferring. While I don’t know if I’m cut out for the pace of LA life, I’m steeping myself in some interesting things already – local history alongside academic, boiling ideas down from books to papers to a 700-word column. UCLA’s not nearly big enough to satisfy every possible collegian’s taste, it works hard enough for mine, most of the time. Just as LA is a lot more than Hollywood, UCLA offers more for the person who’s willing to put aside the 103 NCAA titles, the wild tailgates and crazy Gayley nights (temporarily – I love me my Bruins) and spend a while in some quiet places. The books are there, the professors have their office hours, and I’m pushy enough to set and get my own agenda.

While I’m surrounded by people who’re engrossed, either with apprehension or enthusiasm, with making a living, there’s more than enough space to learn to live a life.

These next two years are going to be interesting.

2009/04/18

Part of where I’m going, is knowing where I’m coming from.

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 10:02 pm

College is about “finding yourself,” say the counselors and admissions officers. No, it’s about “creating yourself,” says my friend Russell, musician and liberal politics junkie extraordinaire. Regardless of who you are, there is an enormous preoccupation with identity and experiencing college.

College is a staging ground for reality. You’re apart from parents, but still in the arms of a (generally) paternalistic institution that looks out for your interests. You’re an adult, but with enough support to find your way.

People express this longing for identity in different ways – political action, cultural expression, work, Greek life, and other things.

For example, I can identify as brown, Asian, Third Worlder, Asian-American, musician, journalist, scholar, Adventist, Christian, theist, left-of-center, cultural and civil libertarian, writer, reader, transplanted aristocrat, proletarian…the list goes on.

Halfway though college, I really don’t see the point of “deciding who I am” in college – it seems to be more about building habits than establishing personality. Most of that work’s already been done.

All that said, I’ll confess that I bought into it, too. LA, for all it’s flaws, is vastly more exciting than San Bernardino. Regardless of its reputation for balkanization, insincerity, and image-obsession, LA’s an amazing place to be. For all the opportunities I have, as cosmopolitan as I might sound, I’m still a small-town Inland Empire boy in a lot of ways, a little out of his depth sometimes.

I lost a lot of time and a lot of sleep over it all, too!

But I’m over it. Two years is enough time to be confused. Field of study? Settled. Role outside of class? Settled. Opinions? Not so much, but that’ll always be that way. So, honestly? Identity crisis over. Thanks, Gavin.

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