Reflections on “The Good Short Life”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/opinion/sunday/10als.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&ref=opinion

Clendinen has a good point: people (under general circumstances) avoid talking about death. He is also right in that death is to life a factor as important as birth, education, marriage, employment, and even moral codes of conduct – because, after all, what is a story without its ending? As fearful and unfortunate as some may believe it to be, death is inevitable; if no one can avoid its coming, it is more reasonable to prepare for it than not. Certainly, this preparation can go in many ways, and not everyone is expected to choose between life and death in just a few months. Regardless, every individual should have the right to plan and choose the way in which he or she dies, and the right to cease his or her life under personal discretion. Clendinen states that he has “found the way … a way that’s quiet and calm.” So he will end that way, and the decision deserves respect. Such is the way death should work: every individual should be given the opportunity to fully contemplate upon, and select, his or her own ending to life.

A New Blog!

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http://stickybook.wordpress.com

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What Pooh Means to Me

Ever since I was in the fifth grade, people have asked me: Why do you like Winnie-the-Pooh so much?

Every time, I would give out a different reply, based on my whims. I knew that I loved him for a reason, but I did not know exactly what that reason was. Even if I did, I could not articulate. However, a few weeks ago, I finally realized what it is about pooh that attracts me so intensely.

Pooh is around me, everywhere: on my ID card, on my laptop, on my folder cover… Whenever I go somewhere, I always look for pooh products, and if I see one, I inevitably buy it. (Sticking a picture of pooh would be a good marketing strategy if you wanted to lure me into purchasing a certain product.) In fact, on my recent trip to Singapore for the annual THIMUN Conference, all I bought after nearly five different days of shopping was nine different pooh paper-files. The track doesn’t end just at commercial products. My old blog title was “Hundred Acre Wood,” with a bunch of pooh pictures patched onto the background. Almost all of my profile pictures include classic pooh.

Anyway, at a certain point of time, I decided to move out of the patching-on-the-blog syndrome (thus the current blog), because I realized one day that it is not pooh’s outward features that I wish to emphasize to others. It is the true “meaning” behind my love towards the chubby little character that matters.

In explaining pooh’s life principles and how these may correlate with my own, I would first like to start of with a few of pooh’s most famous quotations.

“A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference.”
– Winnie the Pooh

Haha, notice the cute capitalization?! A.A.Milne is such a great author.

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…  I’ll always be with you.”

– Winnie the Pooh

“If you lived to 100 years old, then I wish I would live to 100 minus one day, so that I would never live without you.”
– Winnie the Pooh

In case you have not noticed, none of these quotes talk about intersexual love. Instead, they are based on friendship. I have read many different pooh stories in the past, and none have I ever seen that does not involve a lesson about friendship, cooperation, and consideration. That is what I love most about pooh.

He is not smart, for sure; however, he never gives up to “think, think, and think.” He is not the world’s greatest scholar, but he is the world’s kindest and most giving friend and family. His stories are defined by small, everyday happenings, and not about big accomplishments or failures. And I am sure that Milne did this with a purpose. If I dare assume what this purpose is, it is to tell the readers of how important one’s daily memories are, and to remind us of how invaluable our friendships and relationships are — something we often neglect, especially when immersed in our own, busy lives.

As I have also noted in my previous post, I believe in the power of “small things.” It is not our large-scale achievements, but our small acts of kindness, caring, and love that lasts in others’ hearts. True, the general public will not care or know about these supposedly trivial matters. However, is it truly the masses that I wish to satisfy? In the end, what are they to me, because do they not erase me from their minds the moment they return to face their own problems?

You may call this biased, but I think the personal relationships we cultivate as we live on our path are far more important than the large-scale “image” that we like to foster in the modern day. It is how we touch the hearts and souls of those we pass by as our different roads intersect that lingers and matters. If your sincerity towards these close friends and colleagues continue to pile up, it naturally becomes your character and, yes, “image.”

In this process of interacting with others, we need to prioritize what we would like to build on in the course of our relationship. To me, some of the most crucial aspects of a relationship is trust, caring, and most of all, understanding. Relationships are definitely not easy; however, with the right amount of positive attitude, forming a tight bond (with almost anyone) is possible, and these person-person links are truly the greatest treasures in my life. Everyone has different characteristics and ways of life, but when these unique differences mingle together, that is what makes genuine harmony. And when the warmth I wanted to pass on actually does reach the other person, and when the person keeps that warmth in their heart to use in times of sorrow or happiness, that is what I call meaning and inspiration.

I have a classic pooh CD with songs on pooh and his friends, and the second track is by far my favorite: “Friends Around the World.” Here, I would like to give you a glimpse on the lyrics of the song.

Walking through the woods today
Walking hand-in-hand
Pooh and friends were on their way
On their way to nowhere planned
They stopped to look up at the trees
A hundred shades of green
Yet the colors blends across the land
Pooh and friends are just like trees
Each one is unique
Tigger dances as he pleases,
Piglet’s small and often meek
Though Rabbit sometimes makes a fuss,
they love him just the same
And they still love Owl when he takes too long to speak

Chorus:
Friends Around the World
All in harmony
Holding hands together side-by-side
Friends around the world
All varieties
Living underneath the same blue sky
Friends around the world

Is a special place, wherever there is Pooh
While Eeyore shows a gloomy face,
in his own way he’s special too
And though they all have difference,
as different as they are
They are best of friends through and through

I know I did not do a good job in explaining this, though I tried… but that’s okay.
I cannot, and will never be able to, explain in words this overwhelming love towards the adorable little bear.
But hopefully you can feel this tingle in your heart, as well? 🙂

In the Spirit of Love

The death of a loved one is not easy to cope with.

But it happens, and we accept it, though it may take us a while.

We recover, slowly… recounting moments that we have spent together, and packing away things that have defined his presence whilst he lived. Grief hits us at the most unexpected moments, when reading a book he had liked, when watching a TV show he had loved… and it is only then that we realize, that those are what really matter. The small things.

Last night, my uncle passed away. He is not an actual relative, but his family and ours have been extremely close since years ago, and so I have come to call him my uncle.

About five days ago, we heard from Aunt Yanghee that Uncle had collapsed with a stroke, and was in an extremely risky state. He had had a serious headache for the entire day, but instead of going to the hospital, he went to the beach to “relax his mind”… Ever since that day, he has not been able to regain consciousness, and tonight… he has fallen into an eternal sleep in the arms of our Father.

Aunt and her three children all live in separate locations around the globe, and so they flew in from each of their homes after hearing the news. Just as my parents worried most about Aunt Yanghee and her emotional response to the situation, and just as my grandmother worried about Uncle’s living mother, my heart naturally leant towards the three children, with whom I share many of my childhood memories. The shock they must have felt, the grief they must be going through after the sudden and unexpected death of their beloved father. I could not even imagine their pain. But there was one thing I could do, and that was to share the sorrow and the pain. Though incomparable to the grief they must have felt, my heart was torn, and just thinking about my uncle and his children made me come to tears. Even now…

However, I trust that the family will make it through, and that they will stay strong. This assumption comes not from the fact that they are all mature, because I understand that grown-ups are no less vulnerable to grief than young children, but from my knowledge on the tight bond between the members of the family. True, it will not be easy, especially on those days when we most need our family by our sides, but they will hold each other up.

But most importantly, they have so many memories to hold on to — they have pictures and moments to look back on, and the sense of together that will emanate for long. This reminds me of two of my most cherished quotations:

It’s the little things that make up the
richest part of the tapestry of our lives.
-Anonymous

You will find as you look back upon your life,
that the moments when you really lived are the moments
when you have done things in the spirit of love.
-Henry Drummond

Thank you for the love and warmth you have extended to the people around you.

Rest in peace, Uncle Se.

Collegiate A Cappella Groups

UPenn: Penn Pipers

The way I learn about most a cappella groups is by searching for a specific song. This time, I was looking for the song “Good Old A Cappella.” (apparently a very popular song in the a cappella society) I just received a copy of the music for this song, so I wanted to see what it sounded like, and they were the best among all the examples on youtube! I first didn’t know that it was a collegiate a cappella; I thought it was one of those groups like The Kings’ Singers. However, soon I noticed the “Penn” portion of it, and realized that it was one of the men a cappella groups of the University of Pennsylvania.

This song is great; and their version of it is wonderful!

Stanford Mixed Company

Stanford being an amazingly attractive school (teehee), I did some research on their a cappella groups… and among about eight groups present on campus, this was by far the most .. compelling. Haha. Their website is very Stanfordy (?). If you click the link below, you’ll be able to see their repertoire.

http://www.mixedco.com/repertoire/

This video is, personally, the best out of all the ones provided on the website. 🙂 Enjoy. The song is also very Stanfordy. Keeke, now you can see how much I love this school. T-T

Yale Mixed Company

http://www.mixedco.net/downloads/mcdonaldsgirl.mp3

Same name! Did you notice? They’re so different from the Stanford Mixed Company, yet equally wonderful. From their repertoire, this one is my favorite… check out their site for more! The video version is courser than the mp3 file. I personally prefer the mp3 version. 😉 (cleaner sound quality).

http://www.mixedco.net/index.shtml

A Cappella: A Self-Production

A Cappella.

About two months ago, our English teacher told us that we would be working on a multi-genre project, or MGP, based on a topic of our own choice. As you may have expected, I chose the topic “A Cappella,” and explored the various aspects of it through creating different types of written and recorded work. The first genre was a mandatory research paper, the second was a stream of consciousness, and the final one was what you currently see at the top of this post: a self-produced song.

I had always wanted to expand upon my very first self attempt (which you can see here), and had wished to combine different voices in order to make the recording more authentic and interesting. But this time, it would be an even greater challenge than just different voices, because I had to create an entire song of my own from scratch. Though I was unsure if I could make it happen, I pushed the plan through and started off by creating the lyrics. I had wanted to make this a positive and introductory song about a cappella, and the words came relatively naturally to my mind as I began typing. After about two rounds of revision, this is what I came up with:

A cappella, a song within your soul
A cappella, what every heart sings out
A thousand roses, a long sweet nap
But all of these can never beat the melody inside

Sing, sing, sing a song
Merry-making magic it is
That cures and makes you smile

A cappella, there is no right or wrong
A cappella, what anyone can do
A terrible day, a heart breaking down
But even then you’ll never lose the melody inside

Sing, sing, sing a song
Merry-making magic it is
That cures and makes you smile

No limits
No failures
No outcasts

Impossible to Possible
And single to a whole
A world of happy harmony is here within our heart

Sing, sing, sing a song
Merry-making magic it is
That cures and makes you smile.

After creating the lyrics, I set out with making the main melody to go along with the words. I went to the piano and started assigning notes for every word or phrase. I had had a melody in mind while writing the lyrics, so this part was not entirely difficult, except at some parts I had to adjust the pitches based on pure assumptions that it sounds “okay.” Really, one of the most challenging and scary parts of this whole production was that I had almost no compositional background to support my process, and therefore had to do everything based on the statement, “I think it sounds right.”

Playing the piano.

After coming up with the main melody line (which I decided to assign to the soprano section), I then went on to create the harmony notes for the three other parts, which are alto, tenor, and bass. I used my basic knowledge on chords to create the notes, and they did sound nice on the piano, so I had no doubt that it would be fine in real life. This sadly proved to be partially untrue, as the pitches were too difficult to tune, but the thought that perhaps human voices are much harder to tune did not hit me until afterwards.

The next thing I did was to record every part on the computer, with the exact same rhythm and beats, so that I could send the file to other people with different voice ranges. This process was possibly the most time-consuming and meticulous step of the production, as I had to make sure all four recordings came together to a perfect song with perfect tune and rhythm. By the time I created the mp3 files for all four parts and also combined them to give others a sense of what the final product should sound like, I was completely worn out. However, since it was what I liked to do and what I had chosen to do myself, I didn’t feel frustrated in any way. Instead, I felt accomplished and happy.

Pitches for the four different parts.

If you would like to listen to the piano files, I have them uploaded here on my class wiki page. You can read through the report, scroll down to the third section, and click on the production process link.

Having done the recording, now I had to find people to sing for me. I had planned about three days to recruit the different people, but it surprisingly happened in just a few hours. The people I asked were all extremely willing to help me, even though they were all busy with their own projects and supporting me wouldn’t add on to their own grade or benefit in any way. They all spent the time to finish the recording on time, met with my expectations and followed the directions, and made it so easy for me to put the work together.

So, with the help of my selfless peers (and the power of Garageband), I was able to fine-tune and finalize the song, and here it is, posted at the very top! I hope you enjoyed listening to it, if you took the time to do so — it is definitely the work of a novice and is in its nascent state, but it is mostly due to my lack of composition and editing skills. I feel a little bit bad about not being able to enhance my friends’ beautiful voices… but I think it is good that I have a lot of room for improvement! I have something to look forward to and compare with in the future. I am so excited to see how the work will progress in the future. How blessed I am to be able to enjoy these joys of creation and education!

Economics Project: How Do Vacations Affect Certain Businesses?

The month-long journey has finally come to an end. 😀

Below is a documentary my friend Carol and I created for our Economics class. The topic is: “How do vacations affect certain businesses (in Korea)?”

When we first started off with the project, the idea was almost threatening: to create an original documentary film more than ten minutes long seemed like an impossible feat. Amazingly, we made it happen! 🙂

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYKCojsC%5D

It is with a mixed feeling that I mark the conclusion of this project. During this long yet short period of time in which I worked on our documentary film, I learned many different lessons, both academic and personal. True, I spent nearly half of my entire energy on this single project throughout the past month, and invested a lot of time that could have been used doing something else. I did bug my friends and family, asking for suggestions for improvement, and maybe lost some sleep along the way. However, I do not regret a single moment of it, for I know that it was all worth it.

After all, I am proud of our efforts and final product. This is not because I think our documentary is flawless; in fact, I think it is “flawful” at best. Nonetheless, I have become immersed in this project, in this question, in this entire process. I have fallen in love with it.

I have replayed and re-edited the video more than twenty different times now to refine and resave it, and every time I do it, I spot new mistakes and come up with new ideas for improvement. That is why I embrace our film so much. I do not see perfection, but I see potential. I am glad that I have had the chance to be a leader and director in creating a foundation that has a promising future, a seed that can grow in so many different ways. Do I wish that I had more time to revise and polish the project? Yes, most definitely. However, I have done what I could in the time given.

What matters most is that I value this experience with genuine attachment, and that I had so much fun outlining, producing, and assembling the various parts of the documentary. I cannot believe that I am saying this, but I enjoyed the process so deeply that I did not notice the time pass by!

I truly thank Mr.D for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful, rewarding experience.

If you have the time, please check out the video and leave us comments/critiques! This work can never be final. 🙂