Kollaboration 9: the aftermath

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What a day!  I left for Kollab around 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday and just got back 11 hours later.  It was intense.  From the obscene amount of traffic to get there to getting in early enough for awesome seats (and pit access!), it was quite the adventure.  I even ran into three accidents on the drive down from home (somehow always ending up in the lane where the debris was from the collisions).  Not the best start to the day, but it ended on a very high note.

First, let me explain:  Kollaboration is a sort of concert and talent show all rolled into one, with an after party to boot!  This is their ninth year putting it on in various cities around the country with the mission: Empowerment Through Entertainment.  It’s about bringing the Asian community together and promoting the presence of Asian/Pacific Islanders in the media.  Of course, it’s not exclusive to only APIs, but it is about awareness and support for the issues surrounding them.  Anyone who believes that APIs deserve to play a larger part in the entertainment field (and really all fields) is more than welcome to come celebrate what has been acheived.

Kollaboration 9 was at the Shrine Auditorium and the after party was held adjacent to it at the Shrine Expo Center.  The night was comprised of seven competitors, six guest performances, five celebrity judges, two freestyle competitions, tons of free giveaways, and a slew of sponsors.  All in the course of three hours.  There were even NINE letters from government officials printed in the program, talking about their support for the show.  (Yes, even Arnie.)

So who all was there?  Well… Kenichi Ebina, Jazmin, Paul Dateh, Kina Grannis, Lilybeth Evardome, Jane Lui, and David Choi competed; BoA, Jo Koy, Kaba Modern, Fanny Pak, Norman Ng, and Team Millennia performed; Printz Board, James Kyson Lee, James Ryu, Welly Yang, and Teddy Zee judged; random volunteers from the audience freestyled; and of course, my lovely AKP brothers and I attended, along with the rest of the sold-out crowd (including Philip Wang, Wesley Chan, MySpace Tom…).

Aren’t you jealous?

Well, maybe you aren’t.  Maybe you don’t really know who these people are.  In fact, the only ones I had known were the Wong Fu guys and Kaba Modern.  David Choi, Kina Grannis, Jane Lui, Jazmin, BoA were very new discoveries that I had just learned about.  Everyone else was new to me.  See, that’s the unfortunate situation we are facing (and hopefully eliminating).  How many API performers do you know of?  How many of them are mainstream?  Very, very few.

Jane Lui on the piano, earning her second place.

Kina Grannis at the after party.

Yet, interestingly enough, a lot of popular YouTubers are of some sort of Asian descent.  What happened there?  It seems that having a platform that empowers the individual to make it on their own enables these Asians who are not making it on the big scene to create a following of their own.  Kollaboration is a means of getting those types of artists to the forefront through exposure beyond social media.  Social media is more grassroots whereas Kollaboration is more mainstream.  It can help slowly bridge the gap between online phenomenon and nation-wide star.

As for the rest of the night, there were a lot of entertaining moments throughout, and the performers were great.  David Choi and BoA are really good live and it was wonderful to watch them perform from the pit.  Though it was about six feet deep, I’m really glad I moved there during the intermission so I could see the facial expressions better.  I also had a clear view of the fancy fingerwork that Kaba incorporates into their routine.  My arms did get rather sore and there were times when I started to shake a bit, but it was all worth it in the end.  We were also treated to a sneak preview of another song on BoA’s first American album, set to come out next month.

Aww, David Choi was really enjoying himself.

BoA wants to Eat You Up.

When that part of the evening ended, my fraternity brothers and I took a break to get something to eat before heading over to the after party.  I was fortunate enough to come across Philip Wang, Wesley Chan, David Choi, Kina Grannis, and the guy who won the freestyle vocal competition (gosh, what was his name?).  And I took pictures with them.  Of course.  😉  It was sooo exhilarating!  I never run into people that I know from some sort of media outlet.  It’s cool to see them in person.

I was catching up with an alum of the fraternity when I came across these people and he took the pictures for me, bemused at my giddiness.  I don’t know why I was SO excited (mostly for Phil and David), but it felt awesome.  I have so much respect for them and it’s really great to get to meet them in person, even if we just take a picture and I am forgotten.  Phil did ask for my name though when I told him how much I enjoyed his speech at my graduation this summer.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he forgot it as soon as he repeated it, but it was a very sweet gesture.

AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!  I heart Wong Fu (too bad Ted’s in NYC).  They’re so sweet.  🙂
Smiles all around.

Maybe this is why I like low-key “stars” – they don’t have some sort of upkeep to make them happy and they really appreciate their fans so much more.  I’m not into the big Hollywood stars and I probably would want pictures, but wouldn’t care to really interact with them beyond that.  Part of that is because they probably wouldn’t give me the light of day anyway, but part of that is because they’ve got so many fans they’re probably used to that whole lifestyle already.  I’d much rather appreciate those who are more real, living like I am, working in less than ideal situations, but nevertheless pursuing their passions.  Not that there aren’t A-list stars who do that, but they just don’t interest me.

Vlogs, the fearless revealed on video

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If you’re familiar with blogging,  you have probably heard of (and seen) vlogging, the video version of it.  For many, it is too intimidating to try.  Concerns of how you look, how you speak, what you sound like, your body language, and other self-conscious issues arise.  When you’re on film, there’s a lot you can’t hide.

Blogging is like the safe version of sharing yourself – nobody needs to know exactly what you look like, how you dress, if you have an accent or speech impediment, or other such physical details.  In fact, bloggers can get away with a very mysterious identity.  But once you sit yourself in front of that camera and record, so much information is divulged.  This even includes things that may be seen or heard in the background of your video, like the setup and items in your room or office, any pets or family members who may wander around, etc.

Even with editing, people give off “microexpressions” that cannot be hidden in filming.  Certain subconscious gestures can unveil your hidden emotions, giving your audience a much better idea about you as a person.  This uncontrollable body language even extends to speech patterns, whether it’s the slang you use, the volume at which you speak, or the speed of your speech.  I’ve been watching Lie to Me online and it’s really interesting the little things that can give your real emotions away (even though it is a dramatization, the show makes some good points).  Perhaps this is why many people are uncomfortable with showing themselves on tape.

Additionally, most people don’t usually see themselves from an outsider’s point of view, so it feels weird to watch themselves.  You may start to notice things about yourself that you never really paid attention to and wonder if this is what others see in you too.  Then there’s also the concern that this is a permanent record of you as a person and you can never pretend that someone else was expressing your opinions for you or you were misrepresented.  Some people just prefer their privacy, rather than having their life documented and shared.  It’s easier for them to remain faceless behind typed words.

However, there are those who run blogs with a followership that is interested in them as a person.  What they look like, how they sound, etc.  The very things that people tend to be self-conscious about!  It’s a brave thing to do, putting yourself out like that, even if your readership is encouraging you the whole way.  Doubts about how they will judge you based on how they imagined you and how they will now see you can surface.  When it comes down to it though, if you are proud of who you are, there is no reason to hide that from people who care.  I like the thought because if feels so much more real and honest.  Unless you’re an extremely good actor, you’re showing people the realyou.  And that is something courageous to do.

The other day, Katana put up a rather well-done vlog.  I’ve also been following HappySlip and KevJumba, all of which has made me consider doing some video magic myself.  However, I currently don’t have much to say and I’d like my vlogs to be interesting and captivating.  Also, it would take some time to edit it the way I’d like and I certainly do not have the creative genius to add music.  There was only one time I edited a video (which I was quite proud of), but that was with the help of my group members.

Ah well, maybe I will chronicle my journey to Singapore and that will inspire me… though I will be terribly busy once I start working, so it might have to wait.  We’ll see, but it’s definitely something I want to try eventually!

The pains of programming yield benefits of customization

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I’ve spent a lot of time in the past week fiddling around with sites of mine that allow personalization (including this one).  It’s a tedious thing to do for a self-taught beginner like me, since I have almost no foundation knowledge in CSS and only know basic HTML.  Yet, I still pounded away at it obsessively, working on getting just the right colors, font, layout, etc.  It’s rewarding when things finally look a little more the way you would prefer!

I’ve finally settled on something that I am satisfied enough with.  My main gripe with the layouts offered for this site was that they are all so narrow!  It seems a lot of blogs are that way, taking up just barely over half the width of my screen.  Perhaps this is because I have a wide screen, but I just didn’t like it.  What’s the point in having all that extraneous space?  Certainly no computer screen is that skinny!  I was also thrilled to be able to upload my own image for the background in the banner up top.  Most themes have a very generic image uploaded or just a solid color background, so it’s nice to personalize with one of my own photos.  However, finding a decent image and cropping it to fit took me ages to get right.

So I am pleased enough with what I have now, which may not exactly reflect the title or content of my blog, but it is an extension of my Bruin pride.  I’m hoping to eventually get my own domain name and get a professional to help me with a design.  I just don’t have the artistic knack for creating something that fits a theme or color scheme.  Look at how cool my best friend’s blog looks (and how well it fits the theme).  She got a free makeover for her blog recently and it really does add to the feel of the site.  You immediately get a sense for what she talks about in her entries (nobody would expect posts on makeup or shoe shopping, for instance).  Additionally, it sets a tone – this is no boring site lacking any sort of flavor, but it’s also not a Valley Girl’s personal diary, complete with pink bubblegum images.

When you have a blog title like mine, which doesn’t exactly explain what kind of topics I’ll be writing about, a visual clue from the theme may help.  A clean-cut look to the page, bright and easy on the eyes, with soothing colors and perhaps a photograph of college students or businesspeople.  Now that would set things off on the right footing.  Or, if you can create enough intrigue to draw readers in, perhaps they will read just to find out why you chose the title you did.  I have this image of a black and white photo of someone (maybe even me) sitting at a little cafe, with a cup of tea and said “little fat notebook,” with pen poised over paper and pursed lips.  A pensive shot.  After all, most of the ideas I come up with for entries are recorded in that notebook and crossed off as I get to them.

For now, this is what I’ve got and it shall suffice.  Learning these “web languages” is like learning any other language; you can only be proficient if you learn the general grammar or syntax, basic vocabulary terms, and keep practicing.  Have you ever tried to teach yourself a foreign language?  I did in middle school and that was a disaster.  I think I came out knowing a few colors and numbers.  So, if you truly want to learn how to use markup languages, pick up a manual and build a strong foundation.  Currently I am only proficient enough to fiddle around with what other people have already created.  I envy those who are so fluent in these languages that they can whip up a website in no time!  They will be the ones earning my money in the years to come… unless I find the time to reteach myself, starting from the top.

To check out my other customization, go to laelene.tumblr.com!

Cute journals

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I was browsing Brushdance journals and came across these two that made me smile.  Just thought I’d share.  (Click images to go check them out at the site.)

Good news for night owls!

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“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  Right?  Wrong!  I came across a blog post about how this old adage may just be a myth (and another one confirming his point).  Granted, I don’t know the validity of these claims, but they make sense and it sure does give me hope, being the night owl that I am.

It turns out that people’s biological clocks are genetically influenced to be different chronotypes, which means people have different preferences for when they are most active during the day.  For some, it’s early in the day (lucky them – it fits in well with societal boundaries) and for others, it’s late in the day (which does not bode well for those of us going to school or working).  Although getting up early may seem to make us better off (more daylight hours spent getting stuff done), it doesn’t work as well for those whose bodies naturally feel more energized in the evening and nighttime.

If it’s as hard for you to get up in the morning as it is for me, you know what the drawbacks are: feeling tired throughout the day, not working as productively, losing out on sleep, maybe even crashing during the day…  Sometimes you can’t fall asleep earlier at night, so you’re screwed when it comes to trying to drag yourself out of bed the next morning, with drowsiness haunting you throughout the day.  Not getting enough sleep means your body didn’t a chance to fully recover for the busy day ahead of you.  The quality of sleep can also suffer because you’re sleeping at times that are unnatural to your body.

This is not to say that getting up early is harmful (though it could be for certain people).  In fact, a study cited in the first article link found no correlation between sleeping habits and income, education level, or mortality rate!  The point is to listen to what your body is telling you.  You should sleep when you’re sleepy and wake up when you’re refreshed (although the range should be 8-10 hours – if you’re nearing 12 then you’ll end up feeling more exhausted).  Some people love to get up as soon as the sun is rising and others can’t stand to sleep until dawn is creeping up on them.  Typically, people have no choice but to get up early – for school, for work, and other obligations.  However, if you’re working from home, have flexible hours, are unemployed, or on extended vacation, it wouldn’t hurt to follow your circadian rhythmn.

Now I don’t have to feel guilty about my sleeping habits!

Aren’t humans animals too?

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I was reading an article today about Travis, a chimpanzee who viciously attacked his owner’s friend and had to be shot dead by police and I couldn’t help but question the way people would view this story.  First, the back story:

So basically, Travis lived with a widow who pampered him and kept him around for company after she lost her daughter.  He learned to do a lot of things that only humans need to learn: use the toilet, get dressed, brush his teeth, and even drink wine from a glass.  All in all he seemed as civilized as they get and even appeared in commercials and TV shows.  Still, he had a cage in the house, since it is well-known that chimps can be aggressive, no matter how long they’ve lived with humans.

The attack apparently occurred out of the blue, the victim being a woman who got her face and hands torn apart and is in rather critical condition.  Animal experts analyzing the situation were “baffled” by the attack and one was quoted as saying, “At the end of the day, they are not human and you can’t always predict their behavior and how they or any other wild animal will respond when they feel threatened.”  The owner tried to stop the attack by stabbing him with a butcher knife and hitting him with a shovel (ouch), but to no avail.

She called 911 from her car when her efforts proved futile to stop Travis and frantically told the dispatcher to send the police with their guns to shoot him down.  When police arrived and went in the house, she was not allowed back before her beloved pet was shot.  It turns out she had given him some medication that may have caused this scene, or alternatively, he had a disease that could be attributed.  A tragedy for this woman, who lost her only companion, had to watch her friend get mauled, and may face criminal charges (if proven that she knew her pet could cause others harm).

Now, here’s my take on it – first of all, I have no idea why animal experts are so surprised.  Anyone who has studied chimpanzees knows that they can be very violent creatures.  We also know how captivity can change animals and make the lash out.  Secondly, how in the world do they get away with saying that just because they’re not human, they’re unpredictable?  Humans err like this ALL THE TIME.  For no “apparent” reason, they hurt others, even torture or kill them.  Mothers drown their babies, fathers shoot their families, husbands and wives murder each other.  You can’t predict anyone’s behavior, especially when they feel threatened!

Maybe I love animals too much, but I don’t see how this is any different from some morbid person who practices cannibalism, stabs someone to death, or shoots up their classmates.  These are violent behaviors that baffle people when they are first reported.  What triggered this action?  Why would they resort to such a thing?  What was the meaning behind this?  It’s all the same questions being asked, so why does the fact that a furry creature did it make it that much different from a human doing it?  Would we not want to know the same details if a human stabbed this woman?

There are even the same factors being considered – certain motivations that could be brought on by medication, mood disorders, or other diseases.  So really, how fine is the line between mentally unstable people and this chimp?  Certain chemical reactions in our bodies can create these behavioral outcomes for both species.  It’s sad to think that the only factor really talked about is his species when a chemical imbalance or disease is likely the root of the problem.  There was probably also a trigger factor that set him off – something we don’t know about, like how monkeys feel threatened when you smile at them (they view it as a angry baring of teeth).

I also wondered if they would so readily shoot and kill a human violently attacking someone.  Granted, there is a difference there because of the communication barrier that Travis is veiled behind.  So whereas the police could shout at the attacker and try to reason with him/her, any noises made towards a chimpanzee would probably just frustrate him more.

I’m not trying to say that humans are no better than animals when it comes to controlling their behavior.  In fact, I’m sure many crimes are avoided this way.  However, we may never discover why this happened, merely because Travis could not communicate like a human does.  Many crimes are solved because of conversations the perpetrator had prior to the incident, things they wrote to themselves or others, and other such evidence.  None of that will be available to shed light on this disaster.  So, I’m afraid people will take the easy way out, attribute it to his wild instincts, and call it a day.

It would just be nice if reporters didn’t write up these articles in such a way that will lead people to shake their heads and assume that animals are indeed terrible and uncontrollable when humans can be too.

Business casual redefined

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I decided to take advantage of President’s Day sales today by going to Kohl’s to buy myself a young working woman’s wardrobe.  I have only ever held two jobs that required professional attire – one was an internship that I went to twice a week and one was a summer job that had business casual days two or three times a week.  This job in Singapore will be the first time that I need enough fancy clothes to wear five or six days a week for many long hours!

I have a bunch ofnice shirts that are borderline “going out” and some that look nice, but just don’t look… grown up enough.  I am also sorely lacking in slacks – I have four and the ones for two business suits.  So, today I marched myself out of the house and spent THREE HOURS rifling through the racks, trying on various sizes and colors of various styles.  All in all, it was a productive time and I came out with eight shirts (though two are casual for day-to-day wear), three pants, one suit jacket to match one of the pants, three dresses (one for work and two for formal parties), and some small personal items.

I tried to arrange everything in a way that would show their features best, but alas, I had too many things squeezing into too little space.  As you can see I went a little crazy with the gray pinstripes…

I have feared this shopping trip for far too long and it’s nice to finally get it out of the way.  I always knew it was coming, but I never really needed to stock up, so I never had the patience to spend so much time sorting through what I wanted and what I didn’t.  Why did I fear it?  Because “business casual” is a very hard term to define nowadays.  Traditionally it was business formal attire minus the outer jacket, but with trends influencing what we wear, there are my nice button-up shirts that are also inappropriate for the office.  Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between what adds a nice stylish flair to your outfit and what gives off the entirely wrong impression.  It’s a fine line to walk.

Whatever happened to the good old days when things were simple and straightforward?  Now it’s just a complicated mess that you can’t generalize and things like these can vary by personal preference.  I hope my choices were classy enough without being too straightedge.  And if they were expecting longer sleeves… I’m screwed.  But hey, it’s Singapore!  Their temperature is currently in the high 80s!

Bubble Spinner

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I have spent a couple hours playing this game on Addicting Games after Panda introduced me to it.  I don’t know why it is so addicting… guess it really does belong on this site.  Try to beat my high score – 629!

Singapore: it’s all coming together

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I mentioned before that I was going to take the opportunity to go work in Singapore.  Well, I am on my final two weeks here and we just booked the ticket!  I’ll be flying out March 1st on Singapore Air, which I’m excited for – I hear it’s a posh airline.  It’s not really sinking in that I’m leaving yet, but by the time I get back in six months, things will be drastically different.

The house will most likely be rented out again.  My mom will either return to China to continue working or find a small house or apartment a little closer to downtown LA and try to get into the aerospace industry.  My boyfriend will be entering his senior year of college.  My other friends at UCLA will mostly be moving out into the apartments (woe for no more swipes!).  Meanwhile, I will be homeless, trying to figure out how to make things work over here.

Though the prospects don’t seem that great, I am excited to see what will come of this experience.  It’s part of the beauty, not knowing how things will be.  It leaves the door to opportunity wide open.  There are a lot of things that could happen and I am excited to get started on this new leg of my journey.  At the same time, it’s rather daunting, so I’m taking it one step at a time… first, pack, then, go.  After that… well, time will tell as I integrate into the company (Caelan & Sage) and learn, learn, learn!

I am extremely lucky to have this chance to work abroad, experience a new country, and shadow the CEO and managing director.  Most importantly, I will be given plenty of room to develop and even freedom to decide my path from there!  Do I want to start a branch of the company here?  Do I want to create a new division to go under their umbrella of services?  Whatever way I end up going, the company will be behind me, supporting me in so many different ways.  From finances to connections, manpower to ideas, I will have them to lean on.

Caelan & Sage’s slogan is “Infinite Possibilities” and they certainly do live up to their name!  There is a plethora of choices I face and countless paths that I can eventually take.  What lies ahead of me is a wide expanse of land, waiting for me to forge my way.  How many people can say they have that opportunity?  And how many can say they have it with one of their closest friends?  I am truly blessed.

Love in midair… the ups and downs of Valentine’s Day

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In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d include a cute thing Panda and I came across today as we were wandering the windy roads of Bel Air and driving up and down Mulholland Drive trying to find the best scenic overlooks.  The plane continued on to spell something like Mio, but we lost sight of it, so I never did figure it out.

As for my post-Valentine’s Day report, all in all it was a most splendid day, starting at the painfully early hour of 8 and lasting until midnight.  We got a delicious dim sum brunch before wandering the roads and discovering some random places.  We hung out for a bit before heading out to Santa Monica, where we were going to have dinner.  At first we tried Benihana’s, but the wait was two hours!  -___-  So, we went over to Buddha’s Belly instead, where they told us it was a 45-minute wait, but we got seating in no more than 20.

I love that place because of its chocolate fondue dessert platter.  The food is always interesting and has a fresh taste I’m not used to, since it’s an Asian fusion type of place.  They have the coolest plates and bowls too (and I, ever so easy to entertain, am immensely amused by this fact).  Following that, it was getting late, so we headed back towards campus to hang out some more.

In the morning, Panda had given me a card that I wanted to read when we had peace and quiet alone to enjoy.  So, sitting together at night, I opened the card and he read it to me.  It was seriously the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.  He had managed to find a card with a really long quote that described his feelings for me wonderfully.  Then, his message was so eloquent and heartfelt it made me cry (with joy, of course).  It was the best end to a spectacular day.

Now that I look at this picture, I realize I should have taken a panoramic picture to share the immensity of this valley.  This is the view from the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, looking out on the San Fernando Valley.

When I got home, I found an e-mail from Katana, outlining her contrasting experience: after painstakingly preparing gifts for her boyfriend to present today, she got the ultimate letdown when he didn’t even remember the occasion.  It’s a sad thing when one person cares so much and the other puts in no effort.  For such a memorable day, my Valentine’s was nearly just as dismal.

You see, last weekend when I was visiting Panda, I tried casually asking him what he was doing this Saturday – he was headed home for the long weekend.  Crushed, we then spent the next hour or so talking about why I was upset with him.  It’s not so much that I need to celebrate the holiday, but I did want to see him and it hurt when it seemed like he didn’t even bother to think about it.  Had I not asked, I may very well have been alone today, moping at home.

So, though I had a fabulous time, it didn’t come without a fight.  I often need to give Panda a little push (or big shove) in the right direction for him to get a clue as to what he’s supposed to do.  No, I don’t ask for gifts from him and yes, I pay for my own meals.  I’m not into material things; I much prefer his time and attention.  Then there are things like these where the consideration should at least be discussed, but he just doesn’t seem to understand that it’s important to me.  I mean, it is an internationally recognized holiday after all, whether you like to celebrate it or not.  Doesn’t that at least deserve a mention?  Sometimes it amazes me how thick-headed guys can be.

I suppose this is something I should get used to, always throwing out clues and hinting about what he should be doing and resorting to outright telling him when he doesn’t pick up on the signals.  Successful relationships need good communication and it seems that extra effort is needed when it comes to this particular area.  It just would be nice if he could figure it out on his own and surprise me (like he did with that card) a little more often.  Perhaps he’ll learn with time…  When it comes down to it though, it’s like he said – we will work together and work to understand each other.

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