Category Archives: Personal Writing

Lens Crafter of the week, Nam Nguyens

I’ve missed my camera more and more over the past several months. In the midst of school, work, ongoing projects and making time to feel socially relieved, I tend to forget that it’s there for me, waiting to be utilized. To jumpstart this shutter bug I’ll post about some experimental photographers every so often. Maybe this occasional curation will catalyze my own. Maybe it’ll remind me that small moments, even those locked in a library, can unveil an unlikely point. Regardless of what happens, it’s still content worth recording– Enjoy the view.

“I felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and there are much more stories behind each photograph. Hopefully, these photographs will lead to a beginning of a story however funny, sad, long, short and challenging it will be.” – Nguyens

Nam Nguyens is a New York photographer with under 200 “likes” on Facebook. I ran into a few of his pieces on Designspiration, struck by his deep saturation and clever use of textures, from petals to bed sheets. A few clicks through his Flikr proved even more interesting, as each series displayed a different skill and style than the last.

Here’s a brilliant example of range if I’ve ever seen any:

© 2013 | NAM NGUYENS | All Rights Reserved

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Depth of field miniatures, text treatment, unique color minimalism

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High resolution manipulation, respect for natural light, fearless saturation

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Attention to natural texture, intense clarity of forms in motion, deconstruction of a typical oceanic persona

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Simple special effect, monochromatic drama, stark portraiture, stylized graphic

http://namnguyens.com/

“Everyone is entitled to my opinion.” – Madonna

As my friend B.Clish has said, “The female pop options in 2013 have been SERIOUSLY. LACKING.”

Fret no more, Brian, Lady Gaga and KP have released their singles. May the sparkles commence. You’re likely to hear them on the radio in a matter of hours, if they aren’t already streaming. I’m not going to post the singles. Instead I was intrigued by the promotions before their release.

Katy Perry released her album title in the form of a golden semi-truck (later smashed by a drunk driver), then posted four promo videos. I liked how those were shot. Katy’s also singing on an award show and was a character on the recent and regrettable Smurfs 2.

Across the pop balance-beam, Gaga’s been promoted, too. Her Twitter has been constantly and exclusively tweeting about her single for the past few weeks now, if not longer. She’s also released promo videos and will be singing on Good Morning America this Monday. Lady G’s wacky cool video is below.

If you’ve been to LA, the thick aroma of entertainment-promo isn’t hard to notice. Just spending a few months there has warped me more aware, and more interested, in these pop ladies’ effort. I appreciate a lot of the messaging for its ingenuity in pop, I wonder how much of it they honestly wanted to do.

Do these artists need marketing teams, like brands, to take over their identity for weeks on end?

Is a massive promotional budget a mandatory part of maintaining your “reign”?

Is there any chance for a “less is more” take on music communications?

I’m just curious. They’re still two cool women with more intelligence and ethics than pop stars of the past. Also, I bought both songs.

IDEA ~ ~ I came across this statistic a few weeks ago.

75% of people use their phone on the toilet. 

First, I think I went to use it myself. I thought of a stupid/good(?) idea moments later.

These days people crave every moment to be filled. It’s a never ending cycle of digital consumption, down to the most human moment of privacy- pooping. Everyone’s doing it, so why not create something for this unique time frame? Why not develop a stream, like so many others, of hilarious/interesting/random data that’s perfectly timed for the four-seven minute toilet experience? Try to bare with me here. I’m thinking it could be a small, low-involvement, high reward app hosted by a toilet brand… or just privately owned. Either it’d be funny to call it… #2 “everyone’s doing it”? Too much? And what if featured only the second bests and second worsts of the world?Obviously, this could be anything- photos, gifs, interesting facts, etc. Hmm…. well, concept pending.

3pylgn source: http://www.digitalspy.com/odd/news/a464219/75-percent-of-people-use-their-phone-on-the-toilet.html

Moving Back, Thinking forward, Pissed-off Texan Women.

Here’s something I wrote on my cell phone during a long drive home from California.

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I grew up in the suburban, middle class sprawl of round rock, Texas. The most I had known about California was the pastel abstractions of Rocket Power, a nickelodeon staple about a group of spunky skater kids in Santa Monica. In the fourth grade Spencer Clark moved to my school. He came with spiked blonde hair, like Jason from N’sync, and lots of ten year old stories on snowboarding culture (something I wouldn’t see in person for another ten years). Spencer had an air of confidence and took complete command of our room of quieter Texan kids. I remember mixed feelings of of impressed and intimidation, unusual sensations from a kids age at the time. Even the fifth graders didn’t seem as cool as spencer.

This random memory popped in my sleep deprived brain just now at a gas station. Not coincidentally, I’m on the return trip from my first extended stay (a summer internship) in Los Angeles, CA. I found a gas station-Wendy’s hybrid and pulled over. I’m back in Texas, alright. I didn’t need more gas, not yet, just some pavement to stretch my skinny extensions and a urinal to piss in.

Today I’m wearing grey shorts above the knee, with bicycles symmetrically embroidered on them, black flip flops, the ray bands that miraculously survived the summer, and a saggy white tank top, exposing my side tattoo and sort hardly noticeable chest fuzz. I swept through the place, hung out by the urinal, then washed my hands. The largest man I’ve seen in months scrubbed his hands next to me, talking to his equally hefty son about which snacks he wanted for the road.

A Wendy’s ad chimed overhead, “make sure you try out new pretzel bacon burger today!”

“A burger sounds good”, remarked another teen outside the bathroom, who as just filled a extra large slurpee.

I slipped between families while checking the map on my caseless, white iPhone, heading to the door. It was open so I stepped through, head up and then down again… only to rethink my last ten steps. An older smiling lady had been holding the door open for myself and many more, now filing out. I heard the thank you’s then realized the absence of my own.

The chivalrous woman, in her neon green shirt, with visor and shorts to match, was shaking her head at me. I noticed just after my short window of opportunity to thank her. An even older woman had followed me out, issuing an extra audible “thank you!”, as if making up for the both of us. Her thank you pricked the back of my neck like an irritated bird. This woman happened to be parked next to me, great.

At first I didn’t understand why she was glaring at me. She stood next to her door with the irate expression of a grandma on edge. Oh, I thought, she needs me to pull out before she could open her driver door and I’ve been taking my time fixing this seatbelt.

Damn: strike two. I put my sisters Camry, with the purple fuzzy steering wheel, in reverse and apologetically smiled. No change in her face. Grandma was pissed, and she shook her head as opened her door.

Apparently I’d gone too far. I had let an elderly women, probably native to this tiny town, hold the door open for me without any recognition. I can only imagine the kind labels she stamped to the thought of my skin-showing, post-California face. Had I just added a bad chip to big-city’s reputation in this small western town? Maybe. Probably not. But the whole encounter made me laugh, then got me thinking on the drive that followed. I’m still on right now.

(Don’t worry there are no cars around me and I’m using cruise control and speaking most of this for Siri to translate.)

Friends from New York have told me that people aren’t rude there, they just don’t have time for manners. To me, that’s still a laughable absolute but there is a slight truth to it. Obviously I’ve already shed some of my southern politeness already… And I’d say I’ve grown more mature and empathetic this summer in LA, not the opposite.

In Los Angeles everyone is on the phone. It’s a huge place with pockets of intense energy, and traffic, that you’ve got to basically weave through to get anything done in time. This congestion was overwhelming at first. Tangled highways. Domino lines of Mercedes. It took me by surprise. But two months, down to earth friends, and a full time job swept that worry away. Soon I was another oiled gear in the greater city of angels.

Now I’m driving again, into the throat of an endless, flat sky, also known as I-10. I wonder how many people make this 22-hour drive regularly, even more than two times in their life. I wonder if it makes a difference on the migrating personalities, to soon assimilate in a place far from southern cal to southern comfort? I think it has for me. Flying home would’ve definitely been easier- I’d just like to be back in Austin, really- but this drive through a cultural gradient is worth something, too. Austin feels like a big oasis of forward thinking spunk (ask anyone who visits) but it’s still surrounded by hours/miles/deserts of something very different. Polite gestures. Slow drives Trucks. Open fields. Power plants. Hills with flat tops. Dust devils. Poor cell service.

Funnily enough, my service just dipped. Now my Spotify account is frozen and only the windy hum outside is left. Sporadic but predictable.

If you’ve made it this far into this over written vent-session, you’re probably hoping for a conclusive point, and I’m afraid I don’t have one. At least not the one I’d initially conceived. I guess this is just a view from an unpaid intern road tripping back to school, back to home.

People around me are changing, again, and I’ve gotta keep my eyes up- off my phone- if I want to keep up. But after LA I’ve realized the difference in cognizance and conformity. Spencer Clark probably had the same realization in his ten year old move from California to Texas. That must’ve been a hard move for a kid, though his confidence showed the opposite. From now on I’ll say thank you to every polite Texas woman I see… but they’ll have to deal with my queer tank tops. There are some things a change of scene can’t change about you.

Dickish Attitude: Optional.

“Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.” – Bill Gates

Hipsters aren’t inherently mean.

Bosses aren’t assholes by design.

Creative competition doesn’t have to mean creative warfare.

A tiny bastard in my brain had planted a vision of creatives with thick-rimmed glasses that doubled as razor blades. Luckily, this wasn’t my experience. This summer’s work environment has shown that the advertising universe isn’t inherently caddy, as I’d half expected.

Here are a few example of things around the office I found especially nice/ impactful.

– prompt thank-you emails from my boss’ boss, totally unnecessary

constructive criticism, usually following an introductory compliment

– the use of “we” and general teamwork morale.

– frequent, quick games of shuffleboard during stressful days

– the occasional company huddle for a YouTube lulz

This probably sounds cheesy. It is. But it made a difference to know some coworkers don’t just put up with your presence, they enjoy it. Long live office harmony, I say!

Emoji’s Uncovered

What if we’ve been using Emoji’s wrong this entire time?! What if that smiley was not meant to satisfy your girlfriend, but to creep-out a victim. Sure, emoji’s can have many meanings. But if you asked them- they’d have one reason for their expression, and I want to know what it really is.

So began my friend’s delve into uncovering the truth behind those oh-so-lovable icons.

Beware, it’s a dark journey.

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Only about 400 more to go…

A Visit to Los Angeles’ Palace on the Hill

The Getty Center is an elegant museum and research center that overlooks Santa Monica. Last week, I had a free afternoon to explore The Getty and I didn’t want to leave.

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The first surprise was a spotless magnet-tram that took us from the parking garage and up the mountain, to the museum. It’s a brilliant way to keep traffic and exhaust poops far from the Getty’s quiet beauty. On the return tram ride, we realized how well it divided person-traffic, too. The place was packed and somehow we were driving away in minutes.

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For the first hour we practically ran through the grounds, surprised and hyper. The Getty’s design, finished in the early 1950′s, was incomparable to any outdoor architecture I’d seen before. Sleek, white stone tiles went on forever, spilling up onto the separated buildings and pillars. A shallow, rectangular pool centered the stone foyer, ending in a fountain that changed color after dusk. Surrounding the main foyer were more layered pavilions, followed by grassy hills, perfectly manicured gardens, and more fountains. Lots of fountains. Shiny couples were sprawled across the hills, picnicking. A forty′s big-band echoed off the stone and into the gardens, while  black-tie wait staff served white wine and snacks to anyone looking famished. Ryan and I felt like we’d stepped into a movie set from 2054. Except there was also an eery element of nostalgia. Basically, Aeon Flux IRL.

 

The best exhibit was called Overdrive: La Constructs the Future. This temporary section focused on the creative work in architecture, urban planning, commercial development, and engineering of Los Angeles. Sketches and blueprints taller than me opened our eyes to some colorful reasons to look past the LA traffic.

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My favorite was the section on LAX, the world’s first true airport. Today flying is routine, like chewing. Air traffic fills the sky, so good airport design is expected in anyplace with a flight plan. But this wasn’t the case in the 60′s, when flying was new and exciting for anyone that could afford a ticket. LAX was a fresh thought at this point. Something attractive, utilitarian, long-lasting.

Airports weren’t the only addition during LA’s cultural rise; the automotive industry was also changing fast. Cars became more prevalent for housewives and teens and quickly altered the day-to-day for most people in LA. As it did, bleak auto design warped into chrome wonders of gas-powered art. These were my favorite of the sketches in the exhibit. Exaggerated angles made models, like a ’54 Impala, look brand new. Those sketches realigned my perspective of what “vintage” means. Pretty strange.

Overdrive even had a room dedicated to the construction and early parks of Disneyland. I managed to snap this guy before the security guard yelled at me.

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I used to think Disney World and Disneyland were just Six Flags + childhood. Apparently I’m still an ignorant Disney-virgin… and now I know. I. must. go.

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I’d suggest The Getty Center to anyone. Also, it’s free- what more could I say?!

seeing different differently

Joe and I were thinking of moving closer to the beach. With traffic it’s a thirty or forty minute drive to Santa Monica. Without traffic it’s only fifteen. But distance from the beach wasn’t the only motive to move- we live in a ghetto part of LA. Our first week here it was funny. The second and third week it began to feel inconvenient. Food4Less is the only thing in walking distance and driving anywhere in LA takes three times as long as it should. Now that we’ve lived here for almost a month, the area is beginning to feel comfortable. It’s been nice to leave the shiny, crowded areas of LA to cross I-10 into our shabby, familiar hood. This feeling first hit me the other day on a run. Here’s what I wrote right after, you could blame the whimsical drama on my heart rate.

Just went on another run through our hood. No really, it’s the hood. But this evening I realized some things. Maybe it was because I had my headphones in, and maybe it was because the music (lord huron) was inspiring, but things began to look appealing. Dare I say beautiful? I dare. I’ve been somewhat of a close minded jerk recently. This neighborhood is risky at night. It smells like the ass-pit of a circus sometimes. But it’s also different. Really different things happen on the corners and streets in low income areas, and I’ve noticed they aren’t all scary. Today I passed about six churches, all of them covered in posters, and loads of kids hanging out and kicking balls around the church schools. I saw two moms walking their twin girls home. Each had one hand full of groceries, the other hanging to their spastic kid. I saw about four packs of old people literally leaning against walls, smoking (cigs), laughing, and talking. It seemed like a familiar spot to meet, and none of them were in a rush to leave it. I saw an old lady with far too much make up on waiting outside a beauty salon in a broken chair. What looked lik her husband was standing up next to her, staring off across the street. She didn’t need another beauty appointment. Block after block I saw old vehicles that I haven’t seen in such quantity since I was about ten. Seriously, I saw two different colors of the ’98 Dodge Caravan my mom quit driving eight or nine years ago. I saw posters and ads that were obviously outdated. No one’s buying the space, but no one bothered to take them down either. The architecture in the area is interesting, too. All of the houses, buildings, businesses look like they were booming about thirty years ago. Gorgeous design but zero upkeep. My street is  like a ruin, waiting to be wandered. Colors, typefaces, words, behavior, sounds, and just general lifestyle that seems old and slow. It’s a rarity in that aspect. I like it.

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During the same run I took a breather break to Instagram these and more, captioned “#ghettobeauty”. Go see what else shares that hashtag. Seriously, search it. A real photo series (with my real camera) of life in my neighborhood is coming soon.

Futures are confusing.

Graduation isn’t here yet. I’ve still got two semesters to fuddle around and pretend I know where I’m headed. But in light of recent curiosity, I decided to do some grad school digging, like I can afford it or something. ModernCopywriter.com just posted a list of VCU Brandcenter graduates, so I started there. 

VCU is a creative advertising grad program in Richmond, Virginia. The program prides itself on the crucial collision of business and creative disciplines. 

“Our students concentrate on learning the the craft of their specific track, as well as the business of branding, collaboration, and presentation skills, in a real-world setting… While our students do some spec work, many assignments are real-world projects for clients (both local and national brands) who come to the school to explain their brand, business problem and target audience. Recent examples include Bing/Microsoft, Audi, Free the Slaves, Five Guys, Martha Stewart, NBC, Oreo, The Coca-Cola Company, Goodwill, Virginia Lottery, Lexus, and Ritz-Carlton.”

ModernCopywriter posted a list of graduate work. Their work was simultaneously inspiring and intimidating. It’s nice to see other creative programs dishing out 360-thinkers that will help heighten the quality of content in years to come. It’s also a reminder that I need to step. up. my. game. if I’d like to get a job next year.

Here’s some of the work that I found particularly sweet:

Matt Meszaros- ImageImage

 

Daniel Chen-

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Andrew Kong- 

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and this… so great:Image

 

Sweaty, happy, repositioned.

Today at Black Swan our trendy instructor spouted some ambiguous-wisdom. “Sometimes it’s nice to let go.” This resonated with me. I laid in a puddle of my own sweat and inhaled her statement further. In that particular moment it felt nice to let go; I wasn’t sure how my mini-muscles had bent through the last three pretzel poses, but without that struggle, laying down wouldn’t feel so great. I realize how obvious this is. It’s about as common as common sense gets. Still, her words brought light to my recent fist fight with apathy.

Something can only be named “rest” by its relation to un-rest, or action. Without the second half, resting or moving loses it’s meaning. If we only rest  it wouldn’t be called resting. You might call that depression, or laziness. If we only work hard, it’d be called obsession, or robotics. Much of working America would suggest hard work is necessary for success- but is that all it takes?

Part of competitive business, like advertising, is the survival of the fastest. But the nature of the biz can be exhausting. When does mental exhaustion begin to tarnish creative output?

Making mental rest as routine as mental effort is important. The variance of soft to hard thinking makes it all the more purposeful, unexpected, enjoyable. Our hippie instructor with knew that’s we needed to be reminded of. At least I did. What could be more appropriate than relaxation after several sweating puddles of effort.

Work hard, rest hard, good stuff will fall between. Namaste, yo.

Driving is great, riding can be hell.

“God, I forgot about that! Remember what -“ stops my giggled question. I turn to the pair of break lights up ahead. Focusing red, I plaster my right foot to the floor board. It goes too far and nothing happens. Three seconds pass, we halt before impact. Inertia pulls me forward, the seat belt pulls me back. Normal sound returns to this vacuum of unnecessary panic and I scoff at my buddy who’s driving like a mad man. Then I look forward and regret the scoff. I’m the mad man.

Everyone’s got their thing that strikes a crazy chord. Mine is riding shotgun to bad driving. It’s like a pointy green monster dances inside of my skull, a frustrating control freak. What’s weird is that I’ve only been in two accidents and I walked away from both without a scratch. So is this just unwarranted PTSD? The second wreck was a close call (a three-sixty spin in I-35 traffic) but we only blew one tire. I was in the backseat and remember holding eye contact with a friend sitting next to me. The last person I’d seen before our splattering demise looked way too calm. I’m pretty sure she has been smiling. Maybe she was laughing at my confusing expression. Maybe I burned out on calm reactions that day.

It’s funny how I can read someone before they turn over the ignition. For instance, I know my roommate is an awesome driver. If we’re late for class we drive instead of biking:

He de-pockets a black key and beeps the small Miata unlocked. The key isn’t attached to a key chain because key chains are excessive and Trent is a minimalist. The interior of the Miata is spotless and smells like leather. I’m in a good mood. I’ll get to class on time.

Riding with my other roommate, Sarah, isn’t quite so serene:

We’re talking about a movie I haven’t seen and she can’t find her keys. She digs to the bottom of her bag. My nerves begin to shutter and open the door. Yep, the car’s a mess. Here we go. Sarah interprets the first stop sign as “roll slowly into T-bone territory”. I try to focus on the tear in my shorts. She changes lanes and iPhone playlists. She watches my reactions, not the road. We park and I step out like it’s the first time I’ve seen grass. I feel crazy and relieved.

Sometimes the inventiveness of my paranoia amazes me. If I’m really nervous about the person driving I’ll sort scan the risks around us, break them into variables, and rearrange those into possible sequences of disaster. Then I’ll think about what a car actually is: several sheets of thin, sharp, metal flying down a concrete surface faster than any living thing. It’s a deathtrap. We could die. Apparently Final Destination 3 played on HBO for two months too many.

Other times I realize how ridiculous my thoughts are and quickly redirect. I zone out of my nervousness and slip into an empty, calm sense of apathy. Welp, I’m not driving, I think. If something happens it’s out of my control, which has to mean it’s my time to go- might as well hang on and smile. This is good step to reassurance. Unless I can’t help but ponder what it means to hand over control of my life to another. Is this is truly someone I’d like to make such a trade with? The following existential staircase creates more questions than it aimed to solve and my eyes usually widen into a soft-glaze.

I’m not always such a mad man though. This is just a collection of nervous bubbles that pop up when I ride shotgun. My life is normally a big happy mess, especially when I’m in the backseat. But if you happen to ask if I want to drive, know that I will always say “Yeah, sure” and that I’m thinking thank God. 

Another essay: A Little Freedom

Another essay from the same course, this time with a focus on voice. We were prompted to give a voice to anything, even inanimate coins. Here’s my submission:

Where I come from, you see still, expressionless, faces everywhere. If you’re lucky, you’ll notice differences in skin tone or age lines. But for the most part we all look, and act, the same. It’s hard not to feel like just a melancholy piece in the shiny confinement. What makes us special? What makes me special? I like to avoid the thought.

            The day I met Abe was an important one. “Name’s Abe,” he croaked. “That’s right, just Abe,” before I could respond. “Don’t answer to nothin’ else.” So I didn’t call him anything else. He had a face that stayed with you. Astonishingly damaged, it wasn’t one I’d ever put in the category of same. He knew it too, but did nothing to hide. If you needed to speak with Abe, you were going to have look him in the eyes. Through green scars and textured blisters were a pair of eyes that knew more than you. So naturally, those close to him avoided eye contact. He only spoke if spoken to, and turning jumbled thought to spoken word was never my strong suit. I tried not to bother the guy.

            One afternoon, though, my wonder betrayed my fear. I went straight to his corner, “Abe, where are you from?”

 He turned to face me, sighing. “Son, how old are you?”

“Answer me first,” I reacted. Who knows where that bravery came from.

“I’m from Texas,” he grunted.

“Interesting. I’m 16.” I saw his old expression conceal a smirk before glancing away. “Do you mind if I ask you another question?”

He didn’t look at me this time, “I don’t- but three strikes and you’re out.”

I took a moment to think, then continued: “What’s your story?” Abe turned to look at me again. This time he held a stare before speaking.

 “I’m not much for sharing, kid. Now get on.” I didn’t move. I wanted my third strike.

            It took awhile, but eventually I suspect Abe enjoyed sharing. That first afternoon he spoke about his early days in Texas. He met many faces and then wasted a few years on one in particular. To my surprise, Abe told me to stop by again. “Lots of folks here got ears, but you seem to be the only one that knows how to use ‘em. Come back and see me, kid.”

            So I did. Soon Abe was telling me stories of his former life every day. They were filled with places and faces more colorful than his scars, and I never got bored. Sometimes his marks were even visual aids. “Now, see this here? Never go to New York, the rats are mangy beasts.” Every tale seemed to end with some kind of advice, as if it would come in handy down the road for me. Yeah, right.

            I used my ears to listen well, like Abe said, only chiming in on occasion. One afternoon I reacted when he warned me about the disfiguring nature of sand. “I’m glad that isn’t something I’ll ever get lost in.”

“Oh, ya never know. Time might toss you through a beach or two,” he answered. I shook at this with doubt. I’d been in the same community for as long as I could remember. My world would get no bigger.

 Before I left that day Abe stopped me: “This world is mighty large, boy. Don’t forget your home, but don’t ever let fear trap you in the mud.” He was acting strange. I didn’t like it. Who was he to come into my world and make me question? I know who I am. I’m a face, like any other around. No better, no worse. Nothing special.

 

            That was my final memory of Abe, and all the other pennies that filled that damn jar I called home. The very next night brought a strange disaster, shattering the glass walls of my shiny world. I flew far from my comfort zone. Now only Abe’s advice was with me as I faced a world unknown, scared and excited.

            Eventually, I pieced things together. It was Abe who shook until the jar fell; that rusty old fool set me free. He wished me to see the world he had already explored, but not without a few pointers first. Thanks to Abe, my life’s worth more than a cent. 

An essay: What it feels like to play the French horn

This was an assignment in a copywriting course. For weeks the professor had us write creatively about anything but advertising. Here’s mine:

​The mouthpiece makes the magic happen. It’s tiny, shiny, silver and twists into the hole of its metallic companion. Bringing life to a French horn starts here. With lips pressed together, you decisively exhale through a small opening and cause them to vibrate quickly. When I first joined the band, we spent over a week just learning to use the mouthpiece. There’s nothing exciting about a room full of kids buzzing in unison. I remember feeling a little deceived, but, like a lot of things in my life, initial discomfort and worry faded to curiosity. Fading further into a genuine desire to make music.

​            Half of learning to play a horn was the coordination of lungs and mouth; to play any wind instrument breath and embouchure is everything. There’s got to be enough air in your lungs to finish a musical phrase, for example. I won’t hit a high note if I’m blue in the face because I forgot to take a breath. So it takes a good bit of focus. Focus on the math like language of dots strewn across your sheet music. Focus on the pulsing hands of the director up front. Focus as they gain speed, tracing quick triangles through the air. Focus on when the hands stop, petrified by a rest sign. Focus on the clock to see if class would be out soon. Too much focus and your brain might forget to remind your lungs to carry their weight.

​            Next, the personalized air stream also has to travel through twelve feet of tubing to reemerge as sound. Through the mouthpiece and stem, it fires through one, two, three, or four openings called rotary valves. They feel smooth when they’re oiled just enough. It’s oddly reassuring. Like a surprisingly flexible gate hinge, or easily shifting gears in a brand new Acura. Gliding between notes and key changes is possible because of these valves. And speedy fingers to play is the second half of learning. It was always so blatant who had practiced and who hadn’t (usually I hadn’t). After so many runs, my fingers just have a mind of their own. They shift up and down, seemingly magnetized in routine.

​            Those are a lot of the physical details that go into with playing the horn, but as I grew older personal thoughts and emotions became more of an active factor in the music. If playing in an orchestra as a young kid felt like a form of recess, playing in an orchestra as an older kid was an academic endeavor. For me, knowing the story behind a composer and his song’s purpose was how I stayed interested. We performed pieces that were previously scores for theatre and movies. We also performed modern work, tied to well known names like Ticheli, and Whitacre. These were particularly intimidating. We’d listen to a recording, trying to follow along, but the freshly speckled notes seemed impossible to wrap my head around. Weeks down the line I’d have a better grasp on things, knowing the overall goal was to sound better than the recording I initially dreaded.

​            The good senses, like achievement, from playing the French horn started breaking down for me at age seventeen. I was too interested in trying something new and running off to college. So I put down the French horn for good. Nowadays, I just have an odd bundle of memories involving the metal funnel cake.

Well, to put it frankly

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This is the fluffy post by Frank Ocean that stirred up the world for a hot minute. In 2012, Frank Ocean was the first male rapper to come out as a bromosektual. When I read this for the first time, I couldn’t help but smile at the irony. His hit “Swim Good” was my early-college anthem through some rough times as a homo-teen but I never expected to relate to him THIS well. 

Aside from what he was saying (or whispering, rather) to the world, I think his delivery was ingenious. By this point Frank had developed quite a following on Tumblr, in addition to other social websites. He knew people were listening. So I commend his decision tuck his secret in an eloquent story where only thoughtful readers would realize it said “I’m gay”. Hidden messages caught in thick, descriptive, diction is what intrigues me about great writing. It’s this sort of beauty advertising sometimes try to mock to sell things.

Can a promotion ever feel as real as real?