Thursday, December 23, 2010

Clear and Present Damon: Its the most wonderful time of the year?: Part 2

Didn't Thanksgiving go by fast? Oh well, now its time to break out the Christmas lights and deck the halls because Christmastime is here again.

But it seems like more and more as the years go by, this holiday becomes more and more commercial and less and less secular. So an appropriate place to begin this column is where it all began in the little town of Bethlehem. But how do we know that Jesus was actually born in December. Actually, nobody knows at what exact time of the year when he was born, but to adhere to pagan winter solstice celebrations across the world, the church decided it was the appropriate time to put the savoirs birthday at this time. After all, there were no other holidays in that timeslot yet(besides Chaunakah, but thats another story).

Christmas was a widely adopted as a secular holiday by the Catholic church, but not all Christmas festivities were religous. Christmas festivities across Europe involved drinking and dancing, a lot of citizens went about the streets drinking and the church thought it was getting out of hand. Surprisingly, this is where we get many of our festive Christmas carols from. And you thought Christmas wasn't a big drinking holiday.

When the puritans came to the new world, they banned Christmas saying that it was too pagan along with many beloved holidays of today. Of course we know how much of a killjoy the puritans were and America soon grew out of the whole anti-Christmas thing. And America would give birth to the defining character of the holiday. The jolly Santa Claus.

There was an actual guy called St. Nicholas who lived in what now is modern day Turkey. An old legend says that in order to save three impoverished girls from selling themselves into prostitution, St. Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down there chimney. In time Santa would downgrade from bags of gold due to budget cuts at the north pole. Hey, even he is feeling the effects of the economy. Another legend is that of Sinterklaas, a European variant of Santa. Sinterklaas also delivers toys but also has another person come with him that was lost in the American version of the Santa legend. A devil figure that comes with Sinterklaas to scare naughty children. Also due to budget cuts, the devil companion was laid off and Santa resorted giving coal to the naughty children. Don't worry about our devil friend here. I here he's open to doing the next Exorcist move.

The American version of Santa was epitomized in Clement Clarke Moores poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas." You know, the one that goes "Twas the night before Christmas and all through the etc..." Also new to the Santa legend is the reindeer. Actually their described as eight tiny reindeer, which is necessary, because regular sized reindeer are huge.

As Football is Thanksgivings must watch event, Christmas is packed with specials. As a kid I used to love these. Now there all sort of humdrum to me. The most sucessful special of them all is 1965's "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Why it is so sucessful i have no idea. It has no reindeer with a glowing nose, or a talking snowman. The Charlie Brown catoons normally have him taking a lot of verbal abuse and i'm surprised he is not in a mental institution as of today, I guess because it talks more about the secular part of Christmas more tha the commercial side is what has made this special last as long as it has.

As I spend my Christmas break relaxing at home and anticipating the "Doctor Who" Christmas special, by the way, this is the first time that it will be aired on Christmas in the U.S. Usually we have to wait till spring in order for the BBC to let us see it. Anyway I wish you a merry Christmas and try to avoid last minute shopping. It's a madhouse out there. I'll see you at New Years.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Clearly Claire: Taken advantage of by my childhood

My friends and I walked into the theatre, sat down and got ready to watch some inappropriate teen movie. We sat through the trailers and at the end, there was one for "Toy Story 3." I sat feeling a strange feeling, not sadness, not joy, but something different. My friend, Sarinna, whispered in my ear, "Don't you feel so nostalgic?" Nostalgic. That was the word. I was instantly brought back to childhood and my first time watching "Toy Story."

It had been a good ten years since I had last seen "Toy Story." I had long since reserved myself from all of that. Then my littlest cousin, Santiago wanted to see "Toy Story 3." He had been begging for months and even though it looked good, I didn't really want to see it. It looked like something that would further ruin the happy image I had of my favorite toys. There is nothing worst than watching a sequel to a movie you once loved and finding it awful.

Finally, a few days ago, I broke down and saw it. I have to say, I was almost in tears. Tears from the movie, yes, but also from remembering the good times I had watching the first two with my dad. This was all before the age of 3-D and super high-tech computer animation. It was all about the art. Yet, that day and days later when I rewatched the trailers, I realized that that is what Pixar does. They play on our heart strings. They remind us of simpler childhoods times when we all believed toys were real and that we would see them if we opened our doors and surprised them quickly. Or at least, that's what I believed.

Pixar has a way of making us feel like we are home. Even the new Pixars, the "WALL-E's" and "Ups" of the bunch, really hit our heart strings. I dare anyone to watch Up without crying. This is all part of a master plan that none of us can get out of. No matter how old we get, we still feel like we are kids. I look at my cousin's youthful innocence and realize that that was once me, sitting in the theatre cheering as Woody popped onto the screen with Jessie and Buzz.

But maybe being taken advantage of by these corporate executive who know how to get us isn't a bad thing. For an hour or two you get to escape to a simpler time, a younger time, when there were no deadlines, no jobs, no homework, no essays, and you were allowed to dream.

So I would recommend watching this movie, not because it is awesome, which it was. Not because it was funny, which it was. And not because it had heart, which it did. But because it will make you believe again, even if just for an hour. --Claire Scheffer

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Its the most wonderful time of the year? Part 1

Now that were all done with our Halloween candy, it's time to celebrate holidays that revole around the time that most of us call the Holiday season.

We can't call it Christmas time any more because that would be offensive to other religions besides Christianity. The Holiday season has come to include many different celebrations. Thanksgiving, Chaunakah, Christmas, even Black Friday got into their somehow. Basically anything you can make a holiday special out of. Though I have no idea why "It's the great sale Charlie Brown" never caught on.

The first holiday that devotes itself to family, football and stuffing our faces is Thanksgiving. Could it be any more ironic that this name came from a religous day of fasting. The old grade school tale about how the pilgrims and indians came together after a bountiful harvest is also extemely sketchy. We know very little about what actually happened that first feast in Plymouth. The only surviving account of the first Thanksgiving is from a man named Edward Winslow. In it, our friend Eddie hints that fish was more likely the main staple of the dinner, not turkey. The Wampanoag indians helped out and brought deer and perhaps duck to the dinner. The Wampanoag themselves outnumbered the pilgrims, there were 90 of them. Afterward the pilgrim men played "guy games". Yeah, they called them that. Games like foot races and musket shooting. Even pumpkin pie was absent, since the pilgrims had no sugar left from England.

Today, the romanticism may overshado the actual story of the 1621 feast. But then again, we've created a lot of modern Thanksgiving traditions. I mostly spend my Thanksgiving break playing my PS3 and watching movies based on Tom Clancy novels("Patriot Games" is my favorite). The rest of the country likes to watch the Macys Thanksgiving Day parade. It was originally called the Macys Christmas parade, celebrating the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. I don't see why they changed the name because it's more of a Christmas celebration than anything else. I mean why do you think they save Santa for the very end. I always used to enjoy the big baloons of cartoon characters. They've been there since the parades founding. When the parade was over, they would simply release the baloons into the air. That all changed when one nearly caused an airplane to crash after it was flying over by. Can you imagine if they were to release Kermit the frog into the sky today. Besides the baloons it is a rather humdrum annual event. Without the baloons it would just be the years singer celebrities doing Christmas carols on festive floats(how much do you want to bet Justin Bieber will be on one of them. How much do you wanna bet!!!).

Another tradition is the playing, or more likely watching of the all-American sport of Football. An all-American holiday calls for an all-American institution like Football. Thanksgiving wihout foot ball wouldn't be the same. Ever since the Detriot Lions met the Chicago Bears on the gridiron many years ago, the Lions have played a Thanksgiving game since the 20's. The Dallas Cowboys have been playing Thanksgiving since the 60's. In recent years, NFL network has added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup, this one played at the same time were going to be eating our turkey. The game was added probably because people got sick and tired of watching the Detroit Lions.

The traditions may very for everyone. But the most important part of the holiday is that we spend time with freinds, family and gear up for the madness that Black Friday holds for us. Remember comrades, eat, drink, and be merry!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Seyma Says: Music has no boundaries.

"Hey Seyma, what kind of music do you listen to?"

"Hmm, well I mostly listen to J-Pop (Japanese Pop)

"Wait, are you Japanese?"


"Do you understand it?"

"Not really, but I'm working on it..."

"Then why do you listen to it?"

Other very common questions are:
  • "Are you ashamed of your culture?"
  • "Do you want to be a different ethnicity?"

It angers me so when I encounter such an ignorant person like this one. Is it music's only purpose for us to be able to understand it completely? When I ask this question, the answer I usually get is: "No.. but what's the point of listening if you can't understand it?"

That's like asking, "What's the point of listening to a teacher's lesson when they're often saying things that we don't understand?"

The possible answers are the same:

  1. I want to learn.
  2. I like the challenge of having to piece things together.
  3. I enjoy it.

Now who the hek enjoys listening to a teacher talking for hours without having a clue on what they're saying? Well, let's not get into that. This blog post is about music not teachers.

Music is art. Art is diverse and abstract. Drawings, writing, photography, and graphics are all forms of art.

Is it so easy to understand every single piece of art? Can we extract the meaning of every painting as easy as dissecting every single sentence in a book? Can we comprehend the structure of every photo as easy as finding the propaganda of an abstract graphic?

The answers are no, no, and no. It's impossible to understand every single piece of art. Therefore, it's impossible to understand every piece of music you hear.

We understand a piece of music because we, as people, are able to interpret it on our own.

May it be a different genre or a different language, the only barrier that prevents us from understanding music is ourselves.

Music does not speak to us through language. It speaks to us through sound. And so in this case, language does not act as a barrier. Instead, it is one of many instruments alongside vocals and various other mechanisms that help create it.

Is it so uncommon for someone to listen to music that they don't completely understand language-wise? Is it so unusual for someone to be listening to music that's not common in their area?

Just because I listen to music in a language other than my own doesn't mean that I'm ashamed of my culture or ethnicity. My reason is because I love being exposed to different languages and cultures. I can learn many things about them just by listening to their music.

So I hope you understand my points:

  • Music does not have any boundaries.
  • Language, culture, religion, and heritage should and does not matter.
  • We should not judge others based on their music preference, no matter how 'unusual' and uncommon it may be.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

That Religious Guy: All Hollows Evening

..... 'Tis the night of Halloween and unlike many ghouls and goblins, I'm busy at my aunt's house finishing home work. Quite glamorous I know. Regardless of whether you're trick or treating or attending one of the many parties tonight, there's one thing you can't escape: that overwhelming sensation of Halloween. There's just something in the air on this night of nights. Cob webs seem to be more decorative than usual instead of a constant nuisance to house keepers everywhere. Grave stones are back in style. On this October evening, we are allowed to dress up as whatever we want, provided our outfits inspire screams or giggles. All the negative hype about this holiday is really unfounded. Halloween is a positive experience, an activity that every kid should celebrate.

..... Halloween has always been a religious holiday. To the pagans it was Samhain and to Christians it remains All Hollows Evening, the night before All Hollows Day, which is more commonly known as All Saints' Day. To the millions of participants nowadays, however, the event which brings tricks or treats is simply called Halloween. Many individuals tend to denounce this holiday as an evil celebration of death, demons, and magic. Thumping their Bibles, they point to passages that attack such elements. Sadly, these people miss the point.

..... As I gave away candy this year dressed up as a headless man, an outfit which really frightened a lot of kids, I realized that rather than weakening the morality of children, Halloween strengthens them. By being able to point and laugh at the ridiculousness of things that go bump in the night, young people realize that fear shouldn't be an obstacle in their lives. While one might argue that certain components of the holiday are bad (e.g. inappropriate outfits, vandalism, etc.), Halloween is overall a good influence.

..... After all, on what other day can one knock on his neighbor's door and receive treats, all the while dressed in an awesome costume? Halloween is no longer a dark pagan extravaganza. It has become a unifying institution in American culture. Seeing people young and old walking to different houses and meeting neighbors (maybe for the first time) is always a good thing, especially in today's social climate.

..... So break out your cauldrons and count your sugary loot because the night is not over yet! Happy Halloween!

- Jeremy Dela Cruz, veteran trick-or-treater.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thumbs Up Michy!: UK metal band, Bring Me the Horizon, reaches number one on the music charts in Australia

This blog post is a commentary on the above video. ^

Bring Me the Horizon, a hardcore metal band from the UK, reached number one on the music charts in Australia. Their recently released album, There Is a Hell, Believe Me I've Seen It, There Is a Heaven, Let's Keep It a Secret, sold over 3,600 copies.

"Now it's always impressive when an artist hits number one on the music charts, but a UK band's chart success last week showed just how easy it is to grab yourself number one in Australia."

So, just because Bring Me the Horizon surpassed those oh-so-catchy auto tuned, mainstream, pop and hip hop singles, the music industry is suddenly declining? BMTH is a unique band, that doesn't just sound similarly alike of other bands around them. This is a high achievement. Having BMTH reach first on the charts only proves that a song doesn't have to be one of those overplayed tracks on the radio that last about 5 seconds in your head. No, there is actually good music out there, and surprisingly enough, it can be recognized by a majority of people, as their fan base in Australia would agree.

Bring Me the Horizon may not be some famous and overplayed band that everyone knows, but look at what they achieved. They apparently are recognized around the world, mainstream or not.

"Is this alarming for the industry?"

Yeah, the music industry is obviously going downhill if a unique band -- that differs from the usual, same sounding, mainstream BS -- hits number one on the charts.

Short article


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mikeala AxToGrind: "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)"

"The future is bulletproof. The aftermath is secondary. It's time to do it now and do it loud. Killjoys, make some noise!" intones the character of Dr. Death Defying as the introduction to the new single "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)" from the alt-rocking My Chemical Romance.

That's right, MCR is back, and with a catchy vengeance.

Despite claims of "no more concept albums," (the band has at least two story-telling albums under their belt already) the single reads like a tale of danger, decadence, and detonations, featuring the fictional Dr. Death Defying as a new-age carnival barker, and a mention of the (for now) mysterious "Battery City" -- a likely backdrop for the new album "Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys," out Nov. 22, 2010.

The single is propelled by (yep, you guessed it) a spirited chant of the non-word "Na" in a quick succession, which serves as a combination battle cry/insanely catchy hook. In addition to this not-a-word, there is also not-a-chorus so much as sort of motifs in the song, which include a randomly placed repetition of words and phrases like "detonation," "eat plastic surgery," and "give us more."

The absence of a chorus actually works very well with the song's raw feel, an encapsulation of a feeling of righteous anger and rebellion against conformity and stagnation. The choppy flow of lyrics feels purposely haphazard, an illusion of sloppiness in what is actually a very precisely timed song. As for the vocals themselves, founder and frontman Gerard Way never disappoints, delivering an fittingly stylized performance, sprawling from verse to verse.

The guitar is satisfying as always, sometimes taking a backseat to the power of the vocals, but rearing it snarling head in a burst of a solo towards the end of the song, blazing in a Brian May-touched fashion, but still distinctively from the fingers of lead guitarist Ray Toro.

Sadly, and is the slight downfall of many My Chem songs, the bass gets somewhat buried beneath the chaos of the powerful vocals and two guitarists. But perhaps it lives best overshadowed, providing a unsung hero of a back-bone in aid of the drums.

And, oh, the drums. The fantastic drums of the song sound suspiciously like the masterful work of Bob Bryar, the band's former drummer, who left during the recording of this album after six fruitful years with the band. This loss understandably slowed the release of the long-awaited album, the follow up to the platinum-selling epic "The Black Parade."

Overall, "Na Na Na" sounds like a warped protest song. As the band (not) so cryptically put in a recent promo video, "Art is the weapon against life as a symptom. Defend yourself." The art that is "Na Na Na" does just that, beating down "life as a symptom" with vivacious charm.

Care to defend yourself? Below is a link to the band-made lyric video for "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)" I highly recommend it (obviously).

"Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

That Religious Guy: Faith and Reason

 *Who's in the picture? : Fr. Georges Lemaitre, the man who laid the groundwork for the Big Bang Theory (surprise surprise!) and Albert Einstein, the man who said to the former, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened."

..... Sooner or later, I would've had to break out an actual post about religion! For the past months, I've simply been generating posts on secular topics, placing more emphasis on languages then the divine. Fortunately, I was inspired by a quotation from St. Augustine of Hippo which reads: "Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand." Herein lies the problem of those who deny religion as mere superstition.

..... Recently, I've been entering into debates with atheists, deists, and all manners of "-eists" to the point that I was losing many of the battles since they wanted physical proof of the existence of God. To try to appease them, I attempted to utilize St. Thomas Aquinas' Five Proofs for the existence of God. Sadly, they would still not open their eyes. So I argued using the First Law of Thermodynamics and then the Big Bang Theory. All of these  attempts hit rock solid walls because we all knew we weren't going to convince anyone.

..... I guess one cannot really prove the existence of God to an unbeliever who tries to logically approach this problem. One must first believe before he can understand. In my view, there really is physical proof of God's existence. Just look around you. But in order to take this opinion, one must first believe in God in order to credit Him for creation.

..... I myself don't see a total conflict between my science classes and religion. Whether it be chemistry or biology, all seem to be explaining the way God works. It's only when my teachers profess science to be an end in itself that I digress from their teachings. Science shouldn't be treated as an unofficial religion by the educational system. Let's stick to the hard facts of metabolic equilibrium and move away from songs that relegate angels along with unicorns as myth. But I digress [again]...

..... The Roman Catholic Catechism states that there is no conflict between faith and reason, that revelation can coincide with logic. Still, precedence is given to faith because through it, one can accept religion for what it is: a system of proofs for the existence of that which we do not see. Surely the mystery of faith is that there isn't one. One just needs a little time, effort, and some divine intervention to receive it. 

- Jeremy Dela Cruz

Monday, October 4, 2010

That Religious Guy: Making up for lost time

..... So where does this typical Monday afternoon find me doing? Well, I'm finishing AP Government definitions while listening to 89.0 RFI Monde French talk radio. It always seems that the last week of break is the moment when people choose to kick it into gear and start doing home work, something that could have been done earlier. I am notorious for procrastination, for that sloth that corrupts students and leads them down the terrible path of going to movies with friends instead of writing their college personal statements. Yet ironically, I tend to wish I had more time to complete all the things on my to-do list. But it's time for me and many of my procrastinating pals to learn that wishing for more time can never affect our 24 hour day. We have to make time, to get time.

..... Wishing for more time merely begets regrets (Am I not a poet?). A two week break is certainly a time to relax and enjoy life, hence its name, but as high schools seniors, we can no longer afford such luxuries. Time is literally money, money in the sense of future income rather than present profit.

..... Not wanting to get left behind, I have my whole year planned out in terms of my college future. Tomorrow, I will accompany many of my friends to a visit to University of the Pacific where the plan is to that we each shadow a student who has the same major as we are deciding to take. October will also be seeing me travel on an all-expenses paid flight to Divine Word College, run by the very generous Society of the Divine Word. At DWC, I'll be experiencing World Mission Sunday and a multicultural festival as well as seeing for myself what seminary life holds. In November, the Congregation of Holy Cross is paying half price for me to attend a come-and-see retreat for the University of Notre Dame's Old College program.

..... I still, however, have to get down and dirty to get my personal statement finished for the University of Portland. Deep down, I know I can complete it, but I have yet to begin. The first step in any endeavor is definitely the most challenging. I keep thinking I'll do it eventually. But eventually soon becomes inevitably and inevitably soon festers into someday. "Someday I'll finish my personal statement." Doesn't really have a ring to it like "I've finished my personal statement guys!" right?

..... Sooner or later I'll have to buckle down and get to writing, but alas, my schedule is just to full of relaxation days that I can't seem to find an opening. For all of us in the same boat, let's begin making time for such college preparation activities by setting a day of pure trabajo because the more we wish for more time, the less time we end up having.

- Jeremy Dela Cruz

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Damon Heine: Top ten horror films,Part 2

On Monday I told you my bottom half of the best horror movies of all time. Now its time for the ones that I regard the highest on the list. So without further a do, the top 5 horror films of all time.

5. Rosemarys Baby(1968); Roman Polanski's subtle but chilling satanic horror flick.

4. Halloween(1978); Widely regarded as the movie that began the slasher craze of the 1980's, the debut of Micheal Myers is the start of the masked killer villain.

3. The Shining(1980); Adapted from the novel by Stephen King, director Stanley Kubrick brings the horror genre to a epic status in this menacing motion picture.

2. Frankenstein(1931); One of the best known horror stories ever to be told, it became the best known Universal monster movie of the 30's and 40's. Boris Karloff's performance as the monster is the main reason why the film is remembered today, even though he had no line of dialouge in the film.

And here it is, the one that tops them all. Drumroll please......

The Exorcist(1973); To this day it tops a lot of critics list's. Why? Because it is a movie that brings the horror genre out of being only B-grade movies and makes them worthy of oscar type contention. The film itself won a oscar for best screenplay, and remains a favorite with both christians and satanists alike. The devil is not seen, but has a great presence in the film through the possessed girl. A great achievement like this should never be overlooked, even though gory horror films have seen to overtaken the true scary films, that pray on what we fear inside.

You may agree or disagree with my list of the best films that scare us, but i'm just giving my opinion. If you have not seen a movie or maybe even any film on this list, I do urge you to rent it in the upcoming Halloween month,(even though Blockbuster is in a state of financial crisis right now, oh well, thats a post for another time.)

[Edited by Blog Editor 04 October 2010]

Monday, September 27, 2010

Damon Heine: 1st Post

This is the first time I've done this, so I'm going to address something that needs to be addressed.

My top ten horror films of all time:

10. Nosferatu(1922); the oldest movie on the list, but it laid the path for every single vampire(not counting the Twilight series) movie to be made.

9.Dawn of the Dead(1978); "Night of the Living dead" may steal all the thunder by being the first of its kind, but George A. Romero's follow up cemented the genre in popular culture. Speaking of which...

8. 28 days later(2002); the zombie genre is reinvented in a truly unnerving plague film set in future Great Britain.

7.The Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974); forget the gory 2003 remake. This is what began the slasher genre. Even though not much blood is shown, the plot is weird and creepy enough to stay with you long after you first see it.

6.Poltergeist(1982); The same director from "Chainsaw massacre", Tobe Hooper, outdoes himself in an eerie supernatural thriller.

Tune in wednesday when I complete the countdown of my recommended horror films.

- Damon Heine

[Edited 28 September 2010 by Blog Editor]

Friday, September 24, 2010

N. Lawrence: Life Lessons

Sometimes, certain things are chosen for a reason, and that reason, can have good intentions.

Take homecoming for instance. There has usually been a king and queen elected from the senior class. Which makes sense to me because they are the oldest and are setting an example for the younger classes. This year Stagg decided to have a prince and princess elected from the sophomore class. I was disqualified, for reasons most student already know. However, I take this as a learning experience, I think that some sophomores are not at the maturity level needed for this type of election and school involvement.

It makes sense for the senior class, because if they don’t win, they graduate and say "it was a good experience" but sophomores, have two more years to go. Maybe as the years go by the candidates will be at peace with the decisions that were made, even if they didn’t win. But at this age, barely in our second year of high school, I think we are unable to control ourselves in this situation. It all seems like the biggest competition in the world to us, but really, it is just a sash and a crown. It really is just a 'in the moment' type of thing because by our junior year, we will barley talk about it.

Some during this election, didn’t show Stagg that the sophomore class can handle prince and princess. Which brings me back to the original fact that homecoming should be for king and queen, the senior class. That is how its been for a while, and how it should continue to stay. They are the role models for our school, the mature ones we should look up to. Instead of trying to play the same role as them when we are two grades behind, we should watch them, admire them, and learn from them so that when we get to our senior year, we can run for king or queen, and we will have that right mentality, and we will be able to handle ourselves in harsh situations without it getting out of hand.

It really shouldn’t be about getting even, it should be about keeping your head high, no matter what, and not paying attention to what other people say. I know I did not go into these elections with the right mentality. So after this experience, I am confident to say that I have learned a lot of life lessons and matured through this experience. Hopefull this can be a lesson learned for not only myself, but the student body as well.

[Edited 28 September 2010 by Blog Editor]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jera Machuca: Lets 'Cope

... How does one cope with a situation at hand? Sometimes I wonder if everyone is similar in the way that we all find a way to cope when something goes wrong. I also question to what degree we allow things to go before we go to our coping mechanisms. Are all coping mechanisms healthy? I may not have the answers to all these questions but, I can give you an insight on what I have gone through and how it feels.
... When I found out that I had cancer I tried to ignore it. I didn't think about it and it was hard to accept the fact that I had a disease. I went about as I would normally and avoided any conversation regarding how I felt about our new discovery. Ignoring the fact I had cancer was not very helpful but it held off the moment of reality for me.
... With our new discovery of cancer I dealt with it in silence. I would not talk to my family or or friends about my emotions. Even when the doctors or nurses came in I kept my silence and allowed my mother to talk to them. The silence just helped me think and process the fact that I had to change a couple of things in my life.
... Once my hair started to fall out I was devastated. It was hard to lose what I thought made me pretty. So at this time in order to cope I used humor. The humor covered up the hurt that I felt. I would just laugh it off and act like it didn't bother me. It made me feel better and it made me realize it wasn't my fault nor was it a big deal to have lost my hair.
... Prayer was another way that I dealt with my issues. Knowing that there was a higher power that was guiding me and helping me get through what was a tough situation helped ease my mind. This higher power helped me realize that it wasn't my fault and that I can go on living my life.
... I believe that he will guide me to the right path and keep me strong. Coping mechanisms are his way to keep us sane and to help us get through life.

[Edited 28 September 2010 by Blog Editor]

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Seyma Tap: My Quest Towards Multilingualism

The language barrier is a powerful obstacle that prevents us from being able to interact with those around us. And because of it, I'm not able to speak to my parents and neighbors without using a mixture of English and Khmer.

Most people assume that I'm already fluent in two languages when in reality, I can't even communicate with my parents fluently. My speaking is so poor that several years ago, my parents signed me up for a program that we nicknamed "Cambodian School" which I had to attend every weekday. I stayed in it for about 4-5 years, but then dropped out in 2006.

My speaking didn't improve at all! The only benefit that I got out of it was learning how to read and write Khmer which I'm gradually forgetting. I am grateful that I know how to read and write a language that's not English, but what is the point of it if I'm not even able to understand it? I do plan on learning the language all over again in the future, but right now, that's not my biggest interest.

Since I was at least able to improve some of my knowledge of the Khmer language from this program, it made me think: Hmm, maybe I can learn other languages too!

You see, ever since I began listening to Asian music (the first being Japanese), I became more and more interested in Asian languages. My experience in Cambodian School told me that if I'm able to learn how to read and write Khmer, then I can learn Japanese and other languages too. This inspired me to create one of my most important goals: To become fluent in at least 2 Asian languages.

The reason why I want to learn languages that are Asian is not because I'm ethnocentric, but because the more interested I am, the more motivated I will be and since I'm very interested, I know that I will have enough motivation and perserverence to pursue and not give up on this goal.

Although Khmer is an Asian language, I wasn't interested in learning about it which lead to me dropping out and learning barely anything. But it's a different story when it comes to my interest in Japanese. Most of my friends are aware of my obsession with its culture and language. I occasionally watch Japanese TV shows/movies just so that I could gain more knowledge of its culture and memorize common words and phrases, but I knew I wasn't getting anywhere.

So on June of this year, I decided to take a step forward and finally started my self-teaching lessons. But I quickly stumbled upon my first obstacle: a lack of sources. Most people would rely on books and videos to teach them about what they want to learn, but unfortunately, I do not possess neither. So I turned to my savior, the Internet, and after just one Google search, I came upon my solution: My Japanese Coach. My Japanese Coach is a video game for the Nintendo DS that teaches you everything you need to know about the Japanese language, from the alphabets to the complex writing system of Kanji.

There are four different ways to write in Japanese: Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji, and Romaji. Hiragana is used to write general words, Katakana is used to write foreign words and names, Kanji is a (very complicated) writing system based on Chinese characters, and Romaji is Japanese written using the Roman alphabet. I have mastered Hiragana and can read it with ease. I managed to memorize Katakana, but I'm occassionally forgetting some characters here and there. Learning how to conjugate verbs and memorizing Kanji is my biggest struggle yet.

I recently became discouraged due to my struggles and have taken a 'break' from my lessons, but being the stubborn person that I am, I am not giving up anytime soon!

After five days of playing this game, I managed learn over 200 different words/phrases (though I'm rapidly forgetting them), how to write a simple sentence (which I need to improve), and memorize both alphabets which is a total of 132 different characters, which in my opinion, is impressive! To think that I was already able to read in write Japanese in less than a week amazes me and proves to me that I may learn the language faster than I ever thought possible.

I am aware of the fact that I can't learn the whole language in a year, but I will continue to pursue my goal and I hope that in a maximum of 2 years, I will be able to speak the Japanese language fluently which will make me one step closer to my ultimate goal.

Monday, September 20, 2010

H. Faith: When ferris wheels attack!

Do you see how fast this ride is going? Oh, well. It was still one of the funnest rides at the 2010 Grape Festival in Lodi.

See how fun, soft, slow, and soothing the ferris wheel below looks? The ferris wheel we went on was nothing like this one. It was a threat to humanity. I don't even know how they could call it a ferris wheel, let alone have it in the same event as this NORMAL ferris wheel. It was the scariest thing ever!
So here's what happened:
On Saturday, September 18th, I went to the Grape Festival with my good friend Sophia and her family. Of course, as all teens do, we went off by ourselves. As a result, we ended up going on the "ferris wheel from hell," as Sophia put it.

We decided to go on the ferris wheels before everything else, but when we got into a line for this second one , we were unpleasantly surprised. We thought it just went a little too fast, which is why it had a cage on the front. Hmmm...I guess this is one of the more secure rides, I remember thinking while we were waiting to get on.

As soon as me and Sophia sat down in it..."VOOSH!" The cart turned sideways and me and Sophia screamed bloody murder! It started moving faster than we could scream that we wanted to get off. The whole time, we were trapped: crushing each other, standing upside down in the cage while it tossed us around, and feeling a bit closterphobic too I might add.

Oh, it was funny, but also painful. We were pinned against each other's sides for almost the entire ride.You'd think you'd have to be there to understand the pain, but some of our outbursts might give you an idea: "Why did we get on this ride?" "We're such idiots!" "Keep the wheel!!!"

As Sophia tried turning the wheel, I was laughing at her frightened face. We kept on yelling like a bunch of crazy kids until the twirl of terror ended. Walking away from the ride, we stumbled over every little blade of grass.

Glaring at the ride, we were curious as to how we didn't see it coming. Even trying to explain it to our friend, Sarah during lunch was out of the question. One word about it gave us both the chills.

Never go on the crazy ferris wheel at the Grape Festival! All of the other rides were amazing, though!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seyma Tap: R.I.P. Rin Ros

As I walked towards the exit of the basketball court, I passed by a group of men. Right as I step out of the entrance, one of their buddies enters.

"... passed away," he yelled out to them. "That n*gga's gone."

As I walked further and further away, I kept trying to figure out the name of the person he mentioned. I wonder who could it have been? Probably an older man. Maybe a gang member? Little did I know that the person who died was actually one of my peers.

Hours earlier, I had heard my mom and her friends frantically speaking about someone who was severely beaten and was bleeding tremendously.

"His face was bruised and scraped." "There was blood all over his shoulders." "His clothing was stained with his blood."

At that moment I thought: It's just another person.

And to this day, I regret ever thinking that.

Because that person was a fourteen-year-old boy. A boy who was only in his second week of his sophomore year at Stagg. A boy who I remember throwing water balloons at. A boy who used to tease me. A boy who I had known since childhood. A boy who was my neighbor. A boy who I had seen standing with his friends just a day before, smiling.

That boy was Rin Ros.

On that day, Rin was severely beaten at Panella Park. After being taken home by his friends, he experienced cardiac arrest. He later died at St. Joseph's Medical Center.

I can't describe how I felt when I read about the incident on I was absolutely shocked. The average person would've cried the moment that they learn about a friend's death. But I didn't shed a single drop of tear. I couldn't. I didn't want to. I asked myself, would Rin want us too?

On August 8, a ceremony was held at his home. Monks and residents gathered inside his living room where they chanted, prayed, and gave their blessings. Tables were set outside where a picture of a young Rin layed. I glanced at it, but I just couldn't look at it for more than second. That little boy... is gone.

The next week, I sat at my desk in my third period Health class looking through my textbook. After a few minutes of turning pages, I stop. Right in front of me was a chapter about mourning a person’s death and a chart on the different stages of grief. As I instantly thought of Rin, my eyes began to water.

Why, at that moment, was I about to shed tears when I didn't a few days earlier?

The fact that Rin was no longer on the campus just hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like crying then and there, but I was able to hold it in.

His funeral was held on a Saturday a few weeks ago, but I was unable to attend. His friends and family were able to look at him laying in his coffin for the last time, and that will be their last image of him. If I was there, I would have chosen not to look at his body because the last time I saw him was when he was smiling and that will always be my last image of him. It will be a positive and happy memory of him.

I give my blessings to Rin's family and I hope we don't ever have to experience the loss of a youth again even though it's inevitable.

Rest In Peace Rin Ros. We will always miss you.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Clearly Claire: Flipped for "Flipped"

We all remember that time. The confusing, strange, messy time when we were just starting to figure out life. We were stepping one foot out of childhood and stepping another into adulthood. We remember the awkward moments, the unstoppable changes, and that first love. The one that stays with us no matter how hard we try to shake it. Rob Reiner's new movie "Flipped" chronicles two young adults flying through that time in their life. As they try to navigate the troubled waters of their youth, they find that they just might be what the other has always been looking for.

The movie starts off with Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) moving to a new town. That's when he meets her. The girl who was destined to spend the next few years stalking him, his next-door-neighbor Juli (Madeline Carroll). To her, he is her one love, the boy walking around with her first kiss. To him, she is an annoyance, one that he must avoid for as long as he can. But what happens when he begins to see her for who she is and decides that maybe she isn't an annoyance, but his one true love. Will it be too late?

This movie is, to say the least, lovely. I loved every moment of this movie. It was beautifully shot and wonderfully written. The actors are phenomenal and I enjoyed every minute of their performance.

The dialogue is genius. The narration keeps switching from Juli and Bryce, who show us the same scene, yet offer a much different perspective. I love how, in one scene, Bryce talks about how he tried to run away from this crazy woman and she grabbed his hand to make him stay.Yet, Juli, narrating the same scene, says that she had to chase after him and when he grabbed her hand, smiled shyly loving every minute. It is just so clever.

The actors in this movie, not only speak the dialogue well, but they add something more. McAuliffe is so good at playing a teen stuck between what he thinks he should want and what he actually wants. He really made me believe that he was a confused kid with a perfection driven father on one side and a crazy yet lovable friend on the other. In one scene he is sitting at the dinner table with his family eating with Juli's family when it dons on him that his father may not be the perfect man he pretends to be. He performance moved me to no ends.

The plot is done wonderfully. The filmmaker took moments in every one's lives, moments we all experience and turned them extraordinary. The scene with Juli and her family sitting and eating dinner together is one that I can see in my own mind from childhood, yet I never truly realized how wonderful those moments were until I saw how Bryce's family interacted at the dinner table. It was unpleasant to say the least. This movie shows you life as we all have seen it, yet I wasn't bored. It wasn't a movie about life so much as it was about the people in our lives that we can take for granted. The people that we see everyday, but don't really see.

This movie made me laugh. It made me cry. It gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling that lasted a long time after the movie ended. Unfortunately this movie is no longer playing in Stockton, but it is worth the drive. See this movie, I guarantee you will love it. It will remind you, like it did me, of the crazy eventful time that was filled with first, but none as special as that first love.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

That Religious Guy: A long way for an accent

..... My quest for the Philippine Spanish accent started last school year and my, what a journey it has been. I have crossed the jungles of Yahoo! Answers. I have visited the quarreling hermits of Antimoon Forums. Amazingly enough, I have even constructed a home in the thriving online metropolis of the city called "Facebook" just to find Filipino hispanohablantes. I have done all these activities in search of an accent, but I come back with a better knowledge of my heritage and my islands, the Philippines.

..... Contrary to most people's perception of Filipinos, our “hispanicity” (nuestra Hispanidad) extends farther than our last names (i.e. Dela Cruz, Guerrero, Bautista) or the names of our desserts (i.e. Cuchintas, Brazo de Merced, Leche Flan). At one point in the archipelago's history, Spanish was spoken from Luzon all the way to Mindanao. Spanish was the language of the revolutionaries, our ilustrados like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and Emilio Aguinaldo. We Filipinos owe our present democracy not to the Anglophone Americans but to our very own native Hispanohablantes.

….. Sadly, Spanish was quickly supplanted in the Philippines with the arrival of the Americans after WWII. America decided that we’d be better off speaking English and practicing Protestantism. After all, the Spanish language and Catholicism were simply remnants of a fallen regime, the last traits of the colonizers that would have to be erased. And so as Filipino newspapers in Spanish were forced to close and the educational system shifted to English, it wasn’t long before the Iberian tongue was slowly fading away.

….. One would think that with more than 300 years of colonization, we’d remember some things those Spaniards taught us. Sure, we may still have the odd Spanish phrase or word preserved into our native languages, but Spanish remains largely unpopular. Efforts like the decision to make Spanish compulsory in schools and courses taught by the Instituto Cervantes, however, are allowing the language to be revived.

….. I finally did learn about the Philippine Spanish accent. Drop by Señora Chavez’s Spanish 5-6 class and you’ll hear my “lisping” voice. The Philippine Spanish accent derives many of its features from the Castellano as spoken by the Spaniards. We regularly use “vosotros/vosotras” and our accent preserves the lleismo and distincíon of old. Therefore, I can be heard saying “conduthir” (conducir) and “otra veth” (otra vez) instead of “condusir” and “otra ves” like my Mexican friends. There also exists a slight short breathy sound (aspiration?) when saying the letter “g” and “j.”

….. The reasons for the Filipino accent being so like the Spaniard one is because unlike in the rest of the Hispanic world, Spanish went largely spoken by the upper-class. It never truly became the common, everyday language even though there were some attempts to educate the masses. Therefore, Philippine Spanish preserved many of the Iberian characteristics.

….. Learning Spanish has ultimately allowed me to understand aspects of my culture I never really learned about. Though the Philippines is in Asia, its languages, cuisine, religion, and customs identify it as the forgetful daughter of Madre España. I have learned where Filipino phrases like “basta kung” and “asikaso” are derived from (Spanish: basta con, hacer caso a), which makes me appreciate the diversity of the language spoken in my family. So if ever you find yourself in the Philippines, feel free to speak some Spanish. You might just feel surprised when someone asks you “Cual es su gracia?” (Which is your grace? / What is your name?)

- Jeremy Dela Cruz

Saturday, June 12, 2010

RANDOMora: Mini Lady Gaga is nothing but show

Who is behind that Poker Face?

Well it is but young eight-year-old Brazilian Laura Fontana, best known as Mini Lady Gaga. Fontana has become rapidly popular on the web because of her cover of Lady Gaga's single "Poker Face" on "Britain's Got Talent."

It's rather disturbing than "Aw ain't she a cutie" sort of thing. Compare sixth grader Greyson Michael Chance, who became an overnight Internet Youtube sweetheart after his cover of Gaga's "Paparazzi," she's not as aspiring.

Not to say the girl isn't cute or trying, but it seems like her parents are, well stage moms. However, when Fontana had gotten teary at the end of her performance, that did fill a sweet whole in my heart.

Nonetheless, it is just strange that the young star is singing provocative lyrics where at least Chance is sure to censor himself when necessary.

Mini Lady Gaga is sure to stay on the web for awhile, but unlike Chance, I doubt Ellen DeGeneres will be calling her home anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

RANDOMora: Gaga you amaze me

I cannot go a minute after watching Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" and click to a new tab without feeling sheer effect come over me.

It casts religion, sex of course, and crazed enough, total shock value your grandma would weep to with every scene flashing through the screen.

Gaga, you won.

The video's essence is raw, dark, and incredibly not suited for any age. It has a bit of a Madonna essence within it as Gaga is dancing in hollow light with an all over black outfit which can't still cover much of what she exposes. The whole "Like a Virgin" scene comes into mid-action when Gaga is being tossed around over rickety (mind you disgusting) beds by men of which eventually her clothing is consumed of and she is buried beneath them.

Gaga doesn't seem to worry about the amount of sex she portrays to her audience, instead that is something she's more than aware of to succeed in displaying in her video unlike past ones.

What is really shocking are the scenes that contain religious aspects but more the dark and gloomy shadows of her soul within it. This isn't to me as an artistic aspect, but just plain thrilling in a Gaga sort of way; thus weird.

"Alejandro" is such an upbeat dance song but by watching this video you would see the actual monster theme she was thriving for.

It's scary enough for the weak souls I suppose, but I don't think anyone can get up from seeing "Alejandro" and say it's not good. But to say I love it, well it would probably take a lot of energy and time to actually take in what I witnessed today. Thanks to "ALejandro," the video "Telephone" has barely become tolerable.

Friday, June 4, 2010

That Religious Guy: The Empire strikes back ... at Mother Teresa?

..... Catholic League president, Bill Donohue, has made a name for himself defending the Church against rampant anti-Catholicism. He doesn't look for trouble. Trouble finds him. And just recently, trouble did find Donohue in the form of a rejection letter.

..... Like many people, Donohue admires Mother Teresa's contributions to society. Out of a desire to honor her on her 100th birthday, Donohue applied to the Empire State Building Lighting Partners in February to have the structure light up in blue and white, the colors of the Missionaries of Charity. After all, the Empire State Building has been lighted up in red, white, and blue for America and has featured Yankees colors whenever they win. The U.S. Postal Service is even going to publish a Mother Teresa commemorative stamp in honor of her birthday. In May, however, Donohue's request was denied for unknown reasons. Was it because the Empire State Building doesn't try to promote religious groups? Nope, since it apparently flies holiday colors for Christmas, Hannukah, and Islamic holidays. So why can't this structure honor a woman who dedicated her life to helping the poor? When it all boils down to it, it's anti-Catholicism at its best, or should I say worst?

..... Last year amid the protests of human rights activists and U.S. congressmen, the Empire State Building chose to honor the 60th anniversary of the 1949 Maoist Communist  Revolution. The communists are after all, the ideal role models for society right? It apparently didn't matter to the Empire State Building Lighting Partners that the Maoists can now live in infamy for intolerance and murder. Donohue puts it best when he observes, "Yet under its founder, Mao Zedong, the Communists killed 77 million people. In other words, the greatest mass murderer in history merited the same tribute being denied to Mother Teresa."

.....Though she didn't commit hundreds of human rights violations, Mother Teresa did receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Medal of Freedom. She has also been beatified by the Roman Catholic Church and is on her way to becoming a saint. So you decide. Why is the Empire State Building Lighting Partners refusing to honor Mother Teresa? Is it because she helped care for refugees, gave homes for orphans, and fed the hungry? Or is it simply because she's a Roman Catholic, a member of a religion that faces a lot of prejudice to this day. So readers, you decide and post a comment.

- Jeremy Dela Cruz

That Religious Guy: Of Priests and Nuns

..... Well, a certain splinter group of our neighbors to the north have just recently "ordained" a women "priest." Now, it's not the Canadians I'm speaking of, after all, les Quebecois are too conservative for that. The organization Womenpriests, which seeks to persuade the Roman Catholic Church to extend priestly ordination to women, has given its blessing to Diane Whalen, 58, of Olympia, Washington.

..... It's not surprising that I'd find this "ordination" offensive and strange. Some might say that the Church is too traditional, too Medieval for the modern world. These people will say that the Church's policy on male-only ordination is sexist and demeaning to women. Well, I find Womenpriests worldwide ordinations to be sexist and demeaning to women and men!

..... As a Roman Catholic discerning a vocation to the priesthood, I'm insulted that many of the women ordained by Womenpriests are married or have been married. Whalen says that she felt the call to the priesthood in high school but also realized that "she also wanted to have boyfriends and to marry." One cannot just pick and choose features of vocations and blend them into something else. Each vocation has its virtues. Married life has the benefit of loving families and consecrated life (That is the life of priests and nuns) provides an opportunity to serve God's people. The Church isn't some sort of Baskin Robbins where people can say "Hey, I want a scoop of married life... and a side of priesthood too." The new "women priests" should maybe take a page from their many male contemporaries, who never married and stayed loyal to the discipline of chastity.

..... The whole mission of Womenpriests also ends up demeaning women. Their advocates say that becoming nuns or sisters isn't enough for women. Apparently we need women to be in leadership. Of course I agree with this. You know why? It's because the Church has had women in leadership positions for centuries: they're called the female religious. Womenpriests is underestimating the contributions and influences of the nuns and sisters in the life of the Church. Women hold high positions in Catholic education, social services, and other venues. Women, both lay and religious, have become saints. As says: "The history of the Church is full of many women Catholic saints, who received recognition for great deeds or meritorious conduct. Many lost their lives in defense of the faith, while others were themselves the mothers of important saints. Many were also honored for their contributions to the Church and their community." Let's not forget the historical trend of women maintaining the faith in their families. Mothers, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers have all contributed to the family's religious life by preserving traditions and encouraging Mass attendance.

..... The Church owes its longevity to all its members, both male and female. Each has his or her role and purpose. Womenpriests is too busy trying to look for imperfections in the Church that it ends up shortchanging the female gender.

- Jeremy Dela Cruz

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Guinea Pig

Why do we use the word guinea pig when one is being studied? Are we being stereotypical? Are we being judged? How is it that we began testing on animals? Now we also run tests on humans? Have we become guniea pigs? Why do we compare ourselves to guinea pigs?
Well even though I have bombarded you with questions believe it or not i don't have the answers but, I do consider myself to be a guinea pig. I go wish that I weren't a guinea pig but in my situation there is not much i can do about it.
When I found out that my surgery was canceled I was not sure what was going to happen to me. Soon after a confrence was held, it was then that the doctors told me that I had one last option at Stanford.
My last option here is to have more chemotherapy. This chemo is an hour once a week, but the down fall to this treatment is it is still being studied. Even though we don't know whatthe outcome will be we are very faithful and we live a normal life. Well as normal as possible. We hope that this chemo will decrease the size of my tumor.
Even though I do not know what is going to happen I am holding my head up high. I am who I am and nothing ever changes that. Nothing in me or what I have to go through defines me.


What do I do? What do we do? What is left for me to do? Having hope and having it ripped to pieces like a piece of paper hurts. It leaves you to wonder what will happen next. I thought only of the worst possible cases that came to mind.
Finding out that my last surgery was canceled because it was growing again and it would not help to have the lung surgery. If I had gone through with the surgery I would have been putting myself in danger.
With a two hour drive home I was in denial trying to come to terms with it. My eyes burned with the tears that began to run down my cheeks. Not knowing what would happen next I thought just of the words the doctor said. Phrases like "rare cancer", "it's growing really fast", and "it's growing over the pulmonary valve" leaves me with fear and sadness that drowns my body in chaos.
Finding out that my surgery was canceled really did hurt. I was devastated and had no idea what would happen next. the fact that synovial sarcoma is very rare means that they really have no way in really helping me. It is a trial and error experiance that fills youup with mixed emotions.
At the time the first chemotherapy may work with your body, but after the first cycle which is like six to nine treatments your body can become immune to the treatment, in other words it will no longer work.
What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? i wonder how i will ever be a normal teen or fulfill a meaningful life. I know I am strong but I do get shaken up. I will regain my strength I MUST.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Clearly Claire: The Promise of a Perfect Game

I have never been that into baseball. I don't watch it on television and except for the occasional Port's game, I don't really go to see baseball, but my dad has always been a fan. I know enough about baseball that when a man pitches a perfect game, you stand up and take notice.

Stockton, in my lifetime, has been the forclosure capital of the US, the most violent city, and the second most depressing city in the US. But these things didn't seem to stop Dallas Braden. He was the pitcher who pitcheed that perfect game. He was the one who let ball after ball fly over the plate and didn't give up a single run. He dreamed to be better than what he was, where he came from, and what he'd done, and accomplished his dream. (he also happened to go to my high school, which is pretty awesome.)

I have always loved my town. There is not a street in this city that doesn't have some kind of fond memory for me, but that doesn't mean that I want to stay here all my life. I have never been the type of person who was happy where I was. I aways dreamed of bigger and brighter things than what I saw surrounding me, but I never saw a way out. But seeing Braden not only pitch a perfect game, but pitch for a major league baseball team helped me believe that I can do it. I can conquer the world I happen to be in now and come out better on the other side. I don't have to be depressed and violent just because I live in a city that says I'm supposed to be. I can go on to do something great, like Braden.

But more than just that, Braden still loves the city he grew up in. The violent depressing, foreclosure and during my entire dream to leave this city behind I never thought of doing anything to help the city improve after I was gone. I do love this town, but I always said that I was going to get out and never come back except for occasional visits to my parents,but Braden has changed my mind. I don't have to be afraid of being here. That doesn't make me a failure, which until a few months ago I thought. I thought that if I stayed here, I was giving up on my dreams, but Braden showed me that my dream can include a better Stockton.

So when Braden tossed that last ball over the plate and his team yelled and screamed and hugged their superstar, Braden didn't know it, but he had changed my whole life.     

Friday, May 14, 2010

KARINA 360° & A. Cordova : A Predicted Future - Orwell and Bradbury

Books were banned, and privacy invaded. Thoughts were destroyed and brains manipulated.

These were the visions in the 1950s by Ray Bradbury and George Orwell. Throughout the duration from the time those books were published – till now - we can see examples of this occurring in our everyday lives.

A few weeks ago a
good Samaritan died on the streets of Queens after saving a women from being assaulted. He himself was stabbed and fell to the floor helpless. During a duration of about 2 hours, 25 people had passed by him not responding to the situation. Of those 25 people, some took pictures of him with their camera phone. Some stood and stared and did nothing.

He later died.

This scenario is mirrored 50 years ago by Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451

Today, as a whole, people are distracted and are less alert to their surroundings. “Denham’s Dentifrice” is an example of an advertisement that was used in Bradbury’s novel to brainwash and to distract civilians in a subway.

On a walk everywhere and anywhere, ads bombard us. Bradbury describes in his mind 200 foot long billboard ads, it seen as though as a form of brainwashing. Today it is the same idea.

“Buy this and buy that! This will make you skinny! Your skin will glow!”

More than ever, sleeping pills have exploded and are a necessity for many Americans. In 2005, 42 million sleeping pills were prescribed.

Why is it that so many people have such a problem sleeping? Of course there are those with medical problems, but that a different story. We’re talking about those who are simply stressed out. Those who are so bothered.

In the New York Times article by
Stephanie Saul, she wrote drug companies spent $298 million in 2005 to “convince consumers that the sleep aids are safe and effective.”

‘“Experts acknowledge that insomnia has become a cultural benchmark — a side effect of an overworked, overwrought society. "Clearly, there's a significant increase in people who report insomnia and, from my perspective, that is the result of our modern-day lifestyle," said Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs, a psychologist.”’

Safety or Privacy is what the average American must choose between. As technology continues to advance and crime increase the safety has become a main priority. But are the many advances just taking it a little too far?

According to an article in
USA Today 10 airports have installed full body scanners. Full body scanners are scanners that one must go in to pass security. An image will be produced of the full naked body in detail. Although it is such a great machine that insures our safety, isn't it taking our privacy away?

With the full body scanner all privacy is eliminated and is exposed to strangers that work with the scanner. Not only that, but where do the images go? Are they completely eliminated from the system?

Maybe airports aren’t a big deal to many, but the everyday use of the internet can be. Millions have an email account and are registered in Google mail, Facebook or other similar internet sites that offer free internet communication to loved ones.

It’s free in the sense of no pay, but those who use this websites and have accounts are selling their privacy.
Daniel Lyons wrote, “Our privacy has become a kind of currency.”

How else would these sites make a profit if they are free?

For example Google, reads one’s e-mail and based on the keywords in the private messages, ads are directed at you. If one types about soccer, they might get a soccer ad.

So in other words internet services sell ones name to advertisers for profit. So much about caring for our privacy!

Bradbury said if a disaster was to happen hospitals and libraries should be the first to be rebuilt. And it's alarming that in our day, because of budget cuts, those two are the first ones being cut.

The next generation will be robbed of the true history. Texas, the largest buyer of textbooks, is somewhat in charge of what children will learn. Recently conservatives morphed the “liberal” historical figures.
The Texas Board of Education did so without a historian present. Thomas Jefferson was an inspirational revolutionary writer. His part was downsized and replaced with more conservative figures.

James C. McKinley Jr. wrote, ‘“Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”’

The fact that people can warp the past into what they please is a direct example of what Orwell described in 1984.

While reading these books we have both realized the effects of a society that has accepted the term “ignorance as strength.”

Not only has it triggered us to think about the future but it also has made us more aware of our surroundings.

It leaves us with just one question.

What will 2050 look like? Thats your choice.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

That Religious Guy: Languages are awesome!!

..... I've gone through so many introduction sentences for this post that I'm starting to see the irony between this momentary lapse in writing and my subject: Languages are awesome. I can't even describe how languages have expanded my world, making it more alive and open to others. There's nothing like learning a new tense in French or memorizing key phrases in Spanish.
..... The concept of words is an amazing one. Words give form to our thoughts, our emotions, and our desires. They've evolved from simple gurgles and mumblings to full-fledged "tier-3" titans as Mrs. Weir-Graham would say like "maladroit" and "gregarious." Coupled with various pronunciations, regional accents, and numerous definitions, the language salad is further tossed and turned. One cannot forget about how grammar, both academic and colloquial, spices this green creation even more (Hey, I like putting hot sauce in my salad, making it into a forest fire, but that's another post for another time.) But I myself have only nibbled on the leaves of this language salad (Talk about extended metaphor huh?).
..... Alas, I can only speak a few languages: English with a California neutral accent, Filipino with a Manileño twist, French with an American feel, and Spanish with a Filipino lleismo. To enhance my learning experience, I started participating in the forums on, a Web site dedicated to helping people learn English as well as other languages. During my short adventures on the site, I realized how much languages not only unite but divide. For hispanohablantes, the topic "Hablemos Espanol" provides an outlet to practice the Spanish language. There's also a pretty generous peppering of other topics on French, Dutch, German, Chinese, and other tongues. It seems that the language world is divided into teams based on whatever language you speak. Therefore, on, los Hispanohablantes hate les Francophones, Chinese speakers are ridiculed, Germans keep to themselves, and the Dutch apparently hate their language. There's one thing that unites everyone who knows another language however and that's the conclusion that English sucks! Being only a novice in the languages I've taken on (French and Spanish), I see myself inferior to the other polyglots, but I can't help but see the idiocy in insulting other languages.
..... The rants and ravings against other languages are mainly based on false stereotypes. For example, someone posted concerning my topic, "Philippine Spanish Accent," that "it is very important for a Filipino to learn Spanish in order to effectively communicate with the other chief source of low-cost labour, the Mexicans." Apparently, there are people in the world who are quick to generalize all Spanish speakers as uneducated dunces. Then there's the stereotype that the French are sissies or that the Chinese are a sneaky people. These stereotypes have nothing to do with the languages themselves, just overlapping histories that have festered into hate.
..... It's important to note that I go on for the content, not the conversation. This is to say that petty arguments and debates don't really affect or matter to me when I'm on this Web site. What matters most is the tiny treasures I learn about like how "vosotros" is more popular than you think and that lleismo isn't that archaic. So beware of ignorant individuals who will be quick to insult, but even quicker to back down once they find out you're not a primitive islander living in the Philippines but a headstrong Filipino American. Get out there and learn a language but be proud doing it!

- Jeremy Dela Cruz

Monday, May 10, 2010

CrazyFaithy: I now have a new respect for baseball

Okay, before I begin blurting out a ton of things that you probably won't understand, let me go over some basic info for you:

A no-hitter is when the opposing team in baseball has absolutely no hits. Though it may not seem like much, it's very uncommon. The last MLB no-hitter before this weekend was made by Mark Buehrle on July 23rd of last year.

So why am I telling you this? Well, it just so happens that a former Stagg student, Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics, pitched the most recent perfect game on Sunday, May 9th against the Tampa Bay Rays.

(Several articles can give you a behind the scenes look if you're interested.)

Now on to the real story...

Dallas wasn't always the picture of success. In fact, when he attended Stagg, the words that people would use to describe him were quite the opposite. He was known as the slacker, the lazy dude, and the occasional "intelligent but lazy" student. (Did I mention he was lazy?)

This one of my problems as well. I am constantly told that I have the upmost potential to be something great, but usually I just roll my eyes and say "yeah, thanks."
Dallas Braden has officially inspired me. :) If a former Stagg student can have such a cringingly low GPA and leave here to pitch a perfect game in pro-baseball, then America really is the land of opportunity. I really can be anything I want to be!
Don't misinterpret what I'm saying here; high school is one of the most important steps we'll take in life. It prepares you for everything. However, Braden shows that even if we make some bad decisions, there are always opportunities for those that seek them. There is always a way to make your life better if you have the willpower and integrity.
Baseball itself never interested me. I must admit that I now have a new respect for the sport, though. Seeing how somebody can use it to turn their entire life around was amazing. The respect I have for it is now indescribable
What made this game all the more heartwarming was the fact that Braden was inspired by his mother, who died of cancer. His grandmother was at the game, and she supported him the whole way through.
Keep your heads up and keep working hard. You never know what opportunities could be heading your way. :)

photo credit: Lance Iverson/The Chronicle

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

iMissyRae 2.0: Applied and Denied?

Being the ever so curious and bored teenager that I usually am, I've recently been following a blog on the New York Times website called "The Choice" which is dedicated to 'demystifying college admissions and aid.' Since senior year is weeks away, I've found that college is no longer an urban legend, and seeing as I'm not spending my time studying for the May SAT, I've decided to follow the blog's recent series, "The Envelope, Please."

The series focuses on six high school seniors across the nation who blog about their personal college application journies and how they deal with the string of acceptances and rejections that follows behind them. One blogger I've especially been fond of is Anna Paik, a senior from Immaculate Heart High School in the sunny Los Angeles area. One of her recent blogs especially caught my eye, and it talks about her recovery from the 11 rejections she received out of the 14 colleges she applied to. To sum it all up, as Paik said, "the college process makes us all vulnerable" and although I haven't started applying to college as of yet, I'm not sure if I'll ever be ready to.

College is the one instituion in America that allows people to judge teenagers based on their grades, extracurricular activities, and standardized testing scores. College applicants practically lay their life out on a piece of paper for admissions offices who tell them whether or not they're good enough to attend that certain school. And with the teens of today, who can handle such criticism and rejection? I certainly couldn't. And neither could Paik (click here for Paik's rejection blog).

You would think an intelligent and unique girl like Paik would get into her dream college, especially after writing for the New York Times website (imagine putting that on your college application). But no, she didn't. She applied to her top choices, such as Stanford and University of California Berkeley, and yet she didn't make the cut. She placed her head on the chopping block, and was sliced from the list. That, my fellow friends, takes courage, but it makes me ponder whether I'd be good enough to make it into my "dream college."

With the impending budget cuts in California, it's hard to be optimistic about the future of education. But after reading the rest of Paik's blog (click here to read it), I realized that the college application process is like the wind. One day, it'll just pick up out of nowhere, and when you least expect it, ruffle your hair a bit and annoy you, maybe even knock you down. But like the wind, the college application process will come and go, as quick as that.

Although I am still a junior in high school and have yet to experience the woes of applying to college, I will one day endure a certain sheaf of rejections that will probably make me question my self-worth, and who knows, maybe even allow me to gain that "freshman 15" before college even starts. But when that time comes and I am up to my elbows in pessimism, I'll remember to keep my head above the water and wait it out, because like Paik said, "we’re much too young to be cynical."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

That Religious Guy: Cowards and their Keyboards

..... I've always found it interesting that people are so civilized, polite, and nice... In public that is. Sure there's the occasional playful teasing from friends and politically incorrect jokes, but both actions aim to entertain rather than offend. I guess being out in the open, in front of judging eyes, prevents people from exposing their real personalities, which reminds me of a good proverb I read somewhere: A man's character should be determined not from what he does in public but what he does in private. Sadly, in this morally gilded age lies a dark underbelly of rudeness and prejudice, a lesson I learned from revisiting my Yahoo! Answers account.
..... I've had a Yahoo! Answers account since December of last year, but I hardly ever used it. Recently, I've discovered how fun it is to help others with their problems. I usually frequent the language questions, helping certain users with dilemmas concerning French, English, or Tagalog. So far, I've only had one best answer, but I aim to sooner or later hit the jackpot and have a "Top Contributor" logo underneath my alias, That Religious Guy. I digress however. So, I realized that I myself could start posting questions about my new favorite subject: languages. My interest was sparked a couple months ago by Philippine Spanish, or the brand of Castellano spoken by Filipinos. Through my limited research, I learned that native Filipino hispanohablantes have their own accent and use different phrases as opposed to the Mexicans, Cubans, etc.
..... I wanted to know more, however, so I posted a question on Yahoo! Answers along the lines of wanting to know more about the specifics of the Philippine Spanish accent and how I could mimic it. Sadly, instead of gaining helpful information, I got this as a response:

"Just keep following the road to El Dorado, and USA will back your scrawn.y wetbac.k spi.c as.s up.

The thing about the Spanish language is that it is originally phonetic. It is probably more phonetic than Italian language, and its transcript sticks true to the sound, and thus becomes the fore front language of Empires, and just like That Religious Guy, religion (old).

French on the other hand is like saucy language, where there are flying accents here and there, as if they are being naughty and Julius Caesar needs to spank them to bed."

..... Now I have a thick a skin as the next guy, but still, being called a "wetback" even though I'm not Mexican hurt a little. I knew that whoever posted that answer meant to truly offend me for desiring to know more about the Spanish language. I also believe that the person in question, we'll call him Scrooge, thought I was living in the Philippines and therefore thought me inferior. Though I am "a little brown brother" as the old U.S. imperialists would say, I'm also an American citizen and I do not take to being treated badly too kindly. Scrooge's comment was mildly amusing since it described the French language in such a hmmm.... What's the word? Interesting? Yes, in an interesting way. (Note: I mentioned that I was going to take AP French next year in my Yahoo! Answers question.)
..... There are so many issues with Scrooge's response. Not only did he insult an ethnicity and linguistic group, but he proves to be one of the many cowards sitting at home trying to rain on the parades of others. I don't understand why some people, once they get behind closed doors, become savage creatures bent on insulting others. Where do they get their courage from? Probably from the notion that no one can hold them accountable for whatever they say or type in private. Still, this should never be an excuse to be rude like Scrooge. His weapon of choice? The keyboard. His target? People trying to get an informative answer. His reward? A semi-angry post by yours truly, That Religious Guy.

- Jeremy Dela Cruz

Clearly Claire: 'Remember Me' has unnecessary ending

It was Saturday afternoon, I had just woken up and was still groggy when I went to my computer to read reviews from (I love the show, so I always check the website before seeing a movie.) I had been planning on seeing the movie "She's Out of My League" and was checking to see if it had gotten good ratings. I stumbled upon angry blogs about a movie called "Remember Me".

This intrigued me. What about this non-vampire-loving Robert Pattinson movie had gotten all these viewers so steamed? Everyone said that movie was unnecessary. It's ending was cheap and only there to get a quick tear from everyone in the audience. I had heard all of this but it only made me want to see it more. No one would say what the ending was, but I had to know what had rilled up so many feathers.

I drove as quickly as I could to the 4:45 showing, sat in the plush chair with an arm full of Sour Patch Kids and Popcorn, and prepared myself for a teen drama about finding yourself. Something I had see before, but I was not prepared for what I was about to see.

(SPOILER: I am going to reveal the ending, so if you want to see the movie don't read. It isn't really worth seeing, but just in case.) Pattinson's character falls in love, endures a brother's suicide, and finally makes up with his stone-hearted father when the ending rolled around. I thought the movie was about to be over, so I packed up my purse, unsure of why a nation had been angered by this movie and then it happened.

A teacher on screen wrote September 11, 2001 on the board and the cameras pan away from Pattinson to show him inside one of the Twin Towers.

That is when I lost it. Tears began to pour from my face in buckets. My nose began to run and I sniffed along with every other person in the room. This all happened before the airplanes even hit. The little boy who had been sitting next to me bored through the entire movie looked up at his teary-eyed mother and asked "Why is that girl crying?". I lost it again. It had been so long since I had thought of that day, but when I saw the crash, it all came rushing back. The fears, the emotions, the knowledge that nothing was ever going to be the same.

The thing was, I wasn't crying because Pattinson's character died, although it was sad, I was crying because of the Towers falling and remembering the way I felt that day. I was suddenly as angry as the Rotten Tomatoes bloggers. How dare the filmmakers take advantage of our tragedy in order to get cheap tears, especially from pre-teens who probably didn't even remember that day, let alone what it represented. The movie would have been fine without that ending, better in fact, because I wouldn't have felt so awful. I get that the filmmakers wanted the ending to be sad, but they did not have to do it in that way.

I'm not saying that we can never have movies about 9/ll, but if we do, I want them to be worth something. If you are going to make me cry, do it for a better reason than, just because you can. I hate movies that take advantage of dire moments in history in order to get people to cry. I now understand the anger and decided to add my own blog to Rotten Tomatoes. You filmmakers did it, you rilled my feathers.