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old school

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pens and Pencils.”

This is quite the timely prompt. One, it allows me to procrastinate even more on studying for AAP (which I basically have decided is impossible). Two, this is exactly the direction I’m going in.

So, let me explain. The prompt asks about when was the last time you took the time to write something substantial in the old fashioned pen and paper. Well, I write my notes in class everyday with a pen and a notebook. I don’t know if that qualifies as substantial, but I’ll consider it as one. I’ve also started carrying around a small pocket notebook to write down all my ideas and to do lists or whatever. It’s the Baron Fig Apprentice. I’ve mentioned this brand quite a lot because it’s quality stuff. I love it. It has decent pricing and it definitely competes with the bigger brands such as Moleskine and Leuchtturm. I’ve practically converted to Baron Fig notebooks exclusively. (And no, I’m not getting any sort of endorsement from these guys. I just really really love their products.)

Going back to the old school idea of notebooks, it’s something I’m doing now. My notes have always been in the cheap Mead notebooks you get for about a quarter during back to school sales. That hasn’t changed since high school. But now that I’m getting into fountain pens, I’m starting to realize the quality of hand writing everything again. So much so, that this novel that’s been burning in my head for the last year or so as finally taken over my brain and I’ve decided to write it all down in a Baron Fig Confidant. It’ll just be notes for now, but I eventually plan on writing it all out as well as typing it because it’s so much faster.

In fact, the entire fountain pen experience has been quite a trip. I want to buy more pens! And ink! It’s expensive, especially for a poor grad student. But it makes writing so much fun again. I’ve never found more excuses to write things down than ever before. I actually cracked open one of my lined journals I bought a couple years ago to start a journal. I buy all these notebooks with all the intentions of filling them with journal entries, or with a millions of ideas for stories that run through my head, but I never actually do. Now I do. I just realized I missed yesterday’s entry, but that’s okay. I can write a new one right after I finish this post.

So to really answer this question, yes, I wrote an actual journal entry a couple days ago. I’m going to write one soon. I’m going to start filling up my Confidant with awesome stuff. In fact, I have another Confidant that’s filled with doodles. Well, it’s maybe about a fifth full, but the rest of the blank pages are there waiting to be filled up with the next greatest idea.

To answer the second part — could I every imagine going back to pre-keyboard era? Oh heck no. If EVERYTHING, including my paper and reports and what have you, had to be hand written and turned in? Forget it. It’d take forever. The convenience of the keyboard and the computer is fantastic. You can send emails in a flash and get a reply just as quickly. Imagine asking for something important in writing and having to wait two weeks? No. There could be phone calls sure, but then you’d have to hop in your car and pick up the powerpoint or the documents in person. For the sake of efficiency, I don’t ever want to go back to a pre-keyboard era.

But for personal matters such as journals or letters or novels? Sure, go ahead, write them down in the old fashioned way. Sometimes, it’s the experience of putting a pen down on paper and having it glide across as you put down your ideas is really what it’s all about.

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Art in the Blood

Whoa, they changed the New Post stuff! This is crazy awesome. Much better than it was before, I think. Unless it’s just me. *shrugs*

Anyway, Writing 101 was supposed to get us into the habit of writing everyday. Clearly, I failed at learning that lesson. I haven’t blogged in almost a week, I think. I wish I could say I’ve been busy with Camp Nano, but no. I’m failing at that too. The only good news is that I set my word count goal at 20k for the month so it’s very doable even if I fall behind for a bit. I tend to write in bursts anyway, usually on weekends. One time for Nanowrimo, I cranked out about 8-10k on a Saturday alone just to catch up. It was grueling and tiresome and it felt like I pulled a horrible all-nighter, but I managed to win by writing 10k+ per weekend. School kept be busy during the week.

I had a good Fourth. Didn’t do much, just relaxed and marathoned Legend of Korra to catch up to the current season, watched some of the World Cup games. I managed to see some friends this weekend and catch up a bit. One of my friends let me experiment with her watercolors just so I could figure those tricky things out and maybe add that to my Artistic List of Things I Need to Learn. In turn, I let her mess around with my Micron pens. I’ve decided to pick up watercolor. I’ve read so much about watercolor this weekend that I’m sick of it lol. I just need to pick a brand, and dive right in and start experimenting. Hopefully, I’ll be able to create a mixed media kind of thing with Pen and Watercolor in the future once I somewhat understand watercolor.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I want to talk about my art teacher who taught me everything I know. Her name was Mrs. Pierce and she was this tiny lady, no more than 4’10” with long wavy brown hair. She was awesome. I had a couple art teachers after she left (she had a baby and then she and her husband moved away :() but they didn’t come anywhere close to the level of excellence as Mrs. Pierce.

I think this all started in Junior High when I took art as a required elective class (it was either that or drama or choir). In there we learned mostly about drawing with pencil/graphite and charcoal. At least that’s all I remember anyway. She taught us about highlights and shadows and still life and how to shade appropriately. It was frustrating and fantastic at the same time. I started seeing the world in a different way. Like how the sun hit certain objects and the shadows it cast or the light it reflected off a metallic surface. It was very messy when we did still life in charcoal. My fingers and clothes were literally covered with black all the time, I’m sure it drove my mom crazy when washing my khakis lol.

She taught us the basics. Start with a sphere, start with a cube/rectangle, then a cylinder. What if the light came from the top? What if it came from the bottom? Or the sides? Then, let’s do a grayscale. Take your pencils and get them as dark as you can to create a gradient. So we learned what H and B meant and how the graphite worked. We learned which erasers were awesome and which were utterly terrible and didn’t do a thing. Ever since then, I don’t bother buying anything that’s not Steadler or Pentel click erasers (and Tuff Stuff).

We learned how to use colored pencils and paint and oil pastels. We learned about color and color wheels and palettes and how to mix colors to get what we wanted. About black and white and how that can change everything. Colored pencils were fun because they were still pencils although it took me a while to understand blending. Oil pastels were fun because of the blending and just the fun colors we could simply create by layering and blending with solvents. Painting was atrocious. I failed so hard at painting. Watercolor, acrylic, it didn’t matter. Once a paint brush landed in my hand, I was doomed to fail. I tried so hard and Mrs. Pierce knew it so she still gave me a decent grade for that unit, but man, my stuff looked worse than a preschooler. No joke. I could mix whatever color you wanted, I could tell you what color you needed to add to get the color you wanted, but I just could not paint.

In high school the beginning art class was strictly drawing, so no painting thank goodness. Since I had her my previous two years in Junior High, she let me and one of my good friends do more advanced stuff during that class. We got to skip all the basics again as she gave us different projects to do. The big project we did was an enormous grid drawing of any picture we wanted. We had to blow it up twice the size, so our grid boxes were 2”x2” instead of the typical 1” boxes. I did a police man with the twin towers in his reflective sunglasses. My friend did a large ice cream sundae that looked like you could lick it off the paper. We spent a majority of the school year doing that as the rest of the class continued on in basics. We still managed a couple little projects I think, but that was our big one.

Made by Me, completed 1/28/2002

Made by Me, completed 1/28/2002

This is it. Sorry it’s not that great of quality or lighting but I took this a few years ago. It’s nowhere close to perfect, especially with my metallic reflections but it’s not bad for a 14 year old kid. Mrs. Pierce is the one that gave me the suggestion of putting the twin towers in the reflection on the sunglasses. In the original picture it was a car. Since 9/11 just happened at the beginning of the school year, I jumped at the chance to do it. It was hard staring at that picture for a long time and trying to get it right in both lenses was a pain, but it was also a good way of letting out all that emotion.

I did other art projects later, with different teachers, but this is the one I’m most proud of. It’s also the last project (that I can remember) that I worked on with Mrs. Pierce. She would come over and tell me that my lines weren’t crisp enough, that I needed to “sharpen my edges” or my blending wasn’t up to par or my blacks weren’t black enough. At times I felt like she was incredibly nit-picky and it drove me absolutely insane, but in the end it helped me. Sometimes she’d fix something in two seconds and make the entire picture look so much better. When I tried to emulate, it took me the entire class period or two before I could get the same effect. We also did our own matting and framing. We had to measure it all out, mount it ourselves and everything. It was great. I don’t know if this is just the whole rose-colored lens deal, but she was the best. She took the time with every student, regardless of their level or skill, and was patient with each one of us, especially me and my friend. We grumbled and complained the entire way through, but we learned.

Seriously, I don’t think I could cover everything that I learned from her. Now that I’m getting back into drawing and art in general, it’s all coming back to me. Even though I’m rusty, the lessons she ingrained into us, into our muscle memory, into our precise vision, has come back. I hope to be a better artist in the near future because of her. And I hope to God I can finally understand how to use a freaking paint brush.

me vs. me

I believe there are many versions of me, but I see them more as wearing different hats. I bring out a different hat depending on the situation. I can be a student, a friend, the goofy kid in the room, the awkward one, the silent and studious one all in one class period. I’ve done it many times. In lab, I would be the hard working student completing my current assignment on the cadaver, the next I could be the goofy, annoying one just to inject some humor into the monotony. Then I put on the tutoring hat when someone asks me a question about technique or in identifying a structure. Then back to student if I have a question to ask the profs or have them double check that I’m on the right path. I can be a friend when we’re having random and fun conversations while working. At some point, they’ve all blended together to form me. All of those different hats are a part of who I am. I don’t have split personality (unless it’s ridiculously early in the morning and/or I’m starving, then the evil side of me rages), I just adapt to the situation.

The two parts of me that I find hard to reconcile are the real life me and the online version of me. My online persona is different than the real me. Here, on the internet, I have time to edit, to think about how to phrase certain things. In the real world, sometimes my mouth gets the better of me. I may say something and it might come out rude when that’s the last thing I mean. (Although, sometimes I mean exactly that haha.) I’m sarcastic, my humor is a little dry and I enjoy confusing people. In real life anyway. Online, I think I’m a little friendlier and I try not to be confusing so I don’t accidentally offend someone. Cautious could be a word to describe my online personality. At the same time, I feel like I’m a little more open here on the world wide web, where anyone can check out my thoughts, funny enough. Maybe it’s because it’s an anonymous audience or because I don’t have to stare at people’s faces when they read these posts, but it’s freeing to have this so called secret online identity. Sometimes I sound (slightly more) sophisticated on here than I do in person, but I try my best to sound like I do in real life to give this blog life.

I don’t think I quite answered this challenge properly, but these are my two cents. No crazy story. No ranting about school (although I could if it would be interesting to anyone that’s willing to listen). But I suppose if my online persona did collide with my real life one, that would be quite the story to tell.

RIP Jack Bristow

Today’s challenge is hard. Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

Honestly, the only thing I can think of that isn’t incredibly depressing are my favorite characters on TV shows I used to love. I know this blog is supposed to be about my journey into grad school and becoming a PathA, but as my Lab Management instructor likes to tell us — go have a life. Don’t make studying your life. Go out, do something, watch a movie, catch a game, anything but this. So I’ve been taking his advice. I have many TV shows that I follow, but since it’s the summer, there aren’t many shows left for me to watch except 24 (SO excited this came back) and So You Think You Can Dance. So, I’m going to take my instructor’s advice right now and write about things not related to the program. (I mean, come on, the previous entry was pretty heavy and emotional — for me, anyhow.) Maybe I’ll do this every once in a while, maybe once a week or every other week. I’ll eventually run out of TV shows, but whatever, it’ll be fun while it lasts. I think I’ll call it RIP TV. It’ll be a category and tag so everyone can access it right away.

So, I have this habit of really falling in love with characters… only for them to die. Or never return for whatever reason the actor left the show. I mean look at what happened with House and Lisa Edelstein (Cuddy) leaving, or NCIS with Cote de Pablo (Ziva). Those broke my heart. I’ll eventually write posts about those shows, but the first one I want to talk about is Alias.

I don’t know how many people out there are familiar with Alias, but it was one of JJ Abrams’ first television shows (the other being Felicity I believe). It aired on ABC from 2001-2006 I believe, so I grew up with this show all throughout high school and into my first year in college. Yes, I’m dating myself, whatever. This was one of my very first hardcore TV fandoms. (I was into anime before that like Gundam Wing, which I am still a HUGE fan of today — that’ll be for another post.) I was on message forums and the like, speculating, flailing over spoilers and whatever happened in each episode. I was one of the biggest Jack Bristow (played by Victor Garber, who is still fantastic to this day) fans ever. No joke. We made a website and everything, it was ridiculous. (The site no longer exists, btw.) In fact, I got one of my favorite high school teachers hooked onto this show. She was my computer teacher, and for our web design project, we had to create a website on anything. I chose Alias and then got her hooked. It was the best freaking site ever, but this wasn’t related to the Jack Bristow site. So, huge, die hard Alias fan right here.

Before I go crazy, let me give you a brief summary. Alias is about Sydney Bristow (played by Jennifer Garner aka the person I want to be when I grow up), a grad student at UCLA working on her Masters degree in literature I think and she’s also a spy. Works for this secret branch of the government called SD-6 — or so she thinks. She realizes that they’re actually the enemy and ends up being a double agent for the CIA with her estranged father, Jack Bristow. Together, they try and take down SD-6 while working out the kinks in their relationship.

Boom. Not bad right? I have this thing for spies, hence 24 love. (I know I need to get on Blacklist and I will eventually, and probably Homeland.) Anyway, Jack is like this uber spy and would do anything and everything to save his daughter. And in the finale, he does sacrifice himself for her. It was so heart breaking. I knew it would happen because all my favorite characters die, but a part of me died with him too. I honestly have not watched the finale since it aired. I actually did a re-watch of the series a while back and stopped before the finale because I could not bear watching Jack die again. Ridiculous, I know. That’s the kind of impact he and this show had on my life.

It taught me a lot. Sydney is still one of the most bad ass female characters that existed on TV. She had a screwed up family, her best friend was killed, her other best friend got put into witness protection — her life was seriously screwed up, but she survived it all and had a happy ending (just not with the character I wanted haha). She and Jack repaired their relationship and it was so fascinating to watch. That was my real reason for watching the show, the father/daughter dynamic, not the romance (although Jack/Irina was quite the show), but the family bonding. There was a lot of love despite all the crazy things that happened. There were a lot of strong and intelligent characters too. It gave me confidence and hope that maybe one day I could be like that. I could stand up for myself and be confident in myself even as the world caved down around me. Plus, it was about spies.

Even if Jack Bristow wasn’t a real character, I still miss him. He was a force to be reckoned with. He wasn’t the perfect or the best dad by any means, but he definitely tried his best and gave all that he had left to his daughter. If that doesn’t say enough, I don’t know what will. RIP Jack. Maybe one day I will watch the series again, including the finale, and be able to be strong about it.

Potential

drexelnotebook

The free swag for the week was a notebook. To most people, it’s just a notebook with the Drexel label on it and it’s no big deal. To me, I absolutely love it. I have a thing for notebooks (and flashlights, don’t ask). I love buying notebooks of a certain size or look just because. I have so many of them it’s ridiculous. Sometimes I write stuff in them, mainly outlines or little scenes or random ideas that pop into my head for NaNoWriMo and/or Camp NaNoWriMo. Most of them are left blank. Not on purpose. I always tell myself that I’ll fill them all one day, and I’m sure I will. Just not right away. I keep thinking I’ll use them as a journal or I’ll use them for the next Nanowrimo that comes along. Sometimes I do. But for some reason, I like the idea of a blank notebook. Maybe it’s the potential it has in them. The potential of random words fitting together to form some kind of idea or story or event filling all those blank pages. It has the potential to be yours. Maybe that’s what I like about it. Maybe because I have a power issue or maybe it’s because I absolutely love that it can become whatever you want it to be.

Now this Drexel notebook is pretty sturdy stuff. It’s thick cardboard, it’s got a shiny dragon and it’s spiral bound. It’s most likely meant for notes (I think these were leftovers from a business event held earlier this week), but I’ll put something special into it. Who knows, maybe it’ll turn out to be a journal. Or maybe even the craziest story that’ll pop into my head and claw at me right as I fall asleep (which are the worst, let me tell you).

(Look at me trying to justify a notebook. But it’s a notebook! I love them, okay. And it was free. Honestly, who’s gonna turn that down?)