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For Pretty Much Anyone

All the Light We Cannot See | Anthony Doerr | Historical Fiction/War Novel

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is my absolute favorite novel at the moment. I’m reading it for my book club, and can safely say it’s one of my favorite books to date. One of my favorite things about the book is how effortlessly Doerr sets the scenery for readers- it’s so easy to visualize this book, and that’s important for me when I’m trying to stay engaged with a book. I suppose this book could also be categorized as a love story, but the true romance of the book is the romance of humanity. In the midst of World War II, in Paris, love and tragedy go hand in hand in this impeccable story. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read, and especially history buffs or friends with romantic personalities. Although the book is detailed and vibrant, it’s also easy to read and comprehend. I’m so excited that a multi-part television series is coming out in the future based on this book; a review will definitely have to ensue!


For the Anti-Book Friend

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America | Linda Tirado | Nonfiction, Poverty

This is a book I was required to read for my multi-disciplinary poverty class last year, and it has still stuck with me in my mind. Similarly to All the Light We Cannot See, this book is easy to read and fast to get through. However, it’s certainly not a dreamy novel- it details a real woman’s story growing up in unbearable poverty in the United States. I recommend this book to everybody, especially my friends who don’t like to read so much. In a lot of ways, it’s more so a collection of essays instead of a book with a beginning, middle, and end. This is a book that requires you to think critically, and really sparks insight over the broken class system in the USA. You may agree or disagree with that, but nonetheless, I believe everyone will have a strong takeaway from Linda Tirado’s story. If anything, I believe reading this book will make anyone a more empathetic person. 


For the Science Buff

Rocket Boys / October Sky  | Homer H. Hickam, Jr | Memoir, Biography

Before I read the book, I watched the movie October Sky in my 7th-grade class. I remember this movie having such a strong, lasting impact on me, hence why I subsequently decided to read the book. To this day, the book (and the movie) is my favorite comfort story. Rocket Boys, sometimes printed as October Sky in later additions, details Homer Hickam Jr.’s unique upbringing in a small mining town in the 1950s. Although the odds were stacked against him, Homer relentlessly pursued amateur rocketry with the hopes of getting out of Coalwood and going to college. Not only did he get to go to college, he even went on to become a NASA engineer, training astronauts for space. While rocketry and science does play a large role in the book, Homer Hickam has the soul of a storyteller and winds a vibrant, poetic memoir. Even if you’re not into rocketry, I promise you’ll adore this book. And if you are, all the better!


For the Creative Friend

The Me Journal | Shane Windham | Self-questionnaire

I guess this could also be considered a great gift for the anti-book friend, because it’s not really a novel- it’s the story of you. The Me Journal is a self-questionnaire that asks extremely deep, thoughtful questions- many of which I never thought to ask before. It’s also a great conversation starter for meeting new people; I love to flip open to a random page and ask my friends the questions. Interestingly, I’ve never actually filled it out because I know my answers are subject to change over time. I’d rather leave it blank and answer it in my head, than permanently put down a temporary answer, you know? Nonetheless, this is a great book for friends who hate to read, or friends who have an interesting story to tell. Or, it can just be an awesome gift for yourself.   


For the Friend Who Loves Politics

Sisters in Law | Linda Hirshman | Biography

In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve been really into historical nonfiction lately. I love to read about American history, because I feel like the best way to change the world is to understand it. I want to have a detailed, thorough, objective understanding of what my country is built on -the good and the bad- so that I may be better informed in how to pave a better future. Sisters in Law is a beautiful biography of two diverse women, Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sandra was a republican Christian, Ruth a democratic Jew, but together, they stormed the Supreme Court and worked together as a team to demand equality. Even to this day, their impact is visible in society; these two women helped pave the way of justice for abortion, sexual harassment, and discrimination. It’s a fascinating read, and offers a powerful woman’s viewpoint of American politics. 10/10!

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As many of you know, crystals and stones are a major part of my life. I love to collect them, research them, and use them in practical application. But what is “crystal healing”? And do I actually believe in it?

Short answer: Kinda.

Long answer: First and foremost, let’s establish what crystal healing actually is. In a broad sense, crystal power refers to the belief that the vibrations of crystals and stones can positively line up with our bodily energy field. I do believe that there is truth to this- as Nikola Tesla said, everything vibrates, everything has energy, everything has frequency. Crystals, in their fragile, exquisite state, are excellent sources of positive energy and enlightenment. Crystal healing has been used since the beginning of time in ancient civilizations, including the ancient Egyptians. There’s a lot of fascinating research on the history of crystals in culture- I highly recommend looking into it!

A lot of crystal healing is dependent on thinking. If you think your crystals have healing potential, the more likely they are to amplify positive thoughts. Or, in even simpler terms, if you think it will work, it probably just will (aka the placebo effect).

For the record, there’s nothing wrong or derogatory about crystal healing being based on placebo. If you’re still getting that sense of relaxation and inner peace…why does it even matter?

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One of my newest crystal additions, a raw chunk of citrine!

I’ve had many enlightening experiences with my crystals, but it’s hard to say whether or not it was an actual scientific experience of crystal enlightenment. There isn’t really a way to prove that crystal healing really works on, say, a molecular level, so it’s definitely up to the interpretation of the person using the crystals. For me, I like to believe that my experiences are mostly placebo, but I never completely exclude the possibility that the vibrations of the crystals affect my energy field.

There are particular crystals that I feel a strong, unexplainable attraction to, such as bloodstone and green aventurine. These crystals heighten certain emotions in me- peace, happiness, tranquility, and ultimately, anxiety relief. My attachment and love for these stones undeniably heighten the fact that they “work” for me. It goes back to the placebo effect- if you want something to work, it probably will, even if there is no scientific backing behind it. It doesn’t really matter to me either way- I still love to meditate with my crystals after a stressful day, or pop a couple in my bag on my way out the door. If something is working for you and creating a positive impact on your life, why not indulge in it and accept it? And even more importantly, why bother tearing it apart and questioning it? I try not to think about whether or not what I’m experiencing is actually scientific, because at the end of the day, it simply doesn’t matter to me.

Whether or not crystal healing is “real”, I still enjoy writing about it, exploring the different believed properties, and using the stones in practical application. I really, truly love taking care of the gifts of nature- animals, plants, and especially crystals. Crystal collecting and healing is a beautiful hobby to pick up, because there is such an abundance of information on crystals and how we can interact with them on an emotional level. Whether or not you actually believe in them, it’s impossible not to admire their delicate, graceful beauty.

Further reading: http://time.com/4969680/do-crystals-work/

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While I was home on winter break a few months back, I happened across a Netflix documentary called The Pixar Story. My excitement kind of reminded me of the feeling when you find $20 you didn’t know you had- “Oh, this is a happy surprise!” We all have elements of nostalgia from our childhood that permanently imprint on our adult lives; movies, video games, songs, television shows, etc. You get the picture. A large (and probably the biggest) audience of early Pixar films was the millenials, the notorious generation that I proudly happen to be a member of. Technology and media were accelerating at a rapid pace in my childhood, and I’m genuinely grateful that I was able to be a part of that.

Image result for finding nemo

I’m sure there are going to be older generations who criticize us youngsters for this intimate bond we’ve developed with movies, especially animated ones, but I don’t really hold it against them. Baby boomers can go on believing I can’t afford a house due to my unruly consumption of avocado toast, if it makes them feel better.

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent, so back to The Pixar Story. If you also grew up surrounded by Pixar films, this documentary is a must-see. It definitely had a conversational tone, like I was actually sitting down with the creators of Pixar to discuss their incredible life experiences. The development of Pixar was really everything I assumed it would be- a bunch of shaggy-haired, 1980s college students hanging out together in a cramped office space, spending their days and nights cracking the code of modern animation. You, as the viewer, could really put yourself in their shoes and laugh along with their inside jokes, and emphasize with their mindsets.

Image result for wall e

I’d always known that animation was something intricate and sophisticated, but The Pixar Story also opened my eyes to the notion that animation could also be a creative process. Of course, it is very mathematics-heavy, but a good animator also needs to be imaginative and have an abstract mind. John Lasseter and Steve Jobs were truly pioneers of a sublime new art form- the beauty of 3D.

The most beloved childhood Pixar movie that comes to my mind is Monsters Inc. I’ve always been a visionary person, especially as a child with an intense imagination, and Monsters Inc. just really nourished that creative development for me. Rewatching it now feels like getting a big hug from childhood, a hug from warm memories and creativity and genuine happiness. Finding Nemo also left a hefty imprint on me; it’s one of my mom’s favorite movies, so rewatching it automatically reminds me of her. (She’s not dead, I just love things that remind me of her).

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, (more specifically, my movie reviews), you might have read my analysis of the 2008 film WALL-E. The article more or less highlights, in detail, all of the deeper meanings and lessons that Pixar incorporates into their films. Even though the films are primarily aged at children, the storylines and themes translate successfully into adulthood and continue to inspire me.

Image result for monsters inc

I can’t find the exact verbatim quote, but one of the creators of Pixar said something about Pixar that gave me a lot of clarity. It was about transition from traditional Walt Disney animation to the prosperous breakthrough of 3D computer animation, but more specifically, what Pixar offered that 2D Disney films just didn’t. Pixar films are generally much more satirical, “adult”, and critical; they are the manifestations of slapstick humor and genuinely meaningful storylines. They aren’t traditional fairy tales, by any means, and a “happily ever after” doesn’t come without adversity.

I love Pixar because their films have  permanently touched my heart. Their films are a perfect cocktail of of creativity, emotional softness, timeless humor, and complete uniqueness- Pixar really started out as a group of misfits, just trying to paint a little more color into the world. It’s not often a film can cover topics like consumerism, the corruption of major corporations, mental health, environmental pollution, family dynamics,  and still do so in a way that young children can understand. In the words of one of my good friends who also loves Pixar: “They do cover some woke shit.”

Pictures: https://www.vulture.com/2016/06/why-are-the-finding-nemo-movies-such-big-hits.html

https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/6/3/15728220/wall-e-pixar-environmentalist-movie-of-week-paris-accord

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/disney-reveals-title-monsters-sequel-172399

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*REPOST*: I accidentally deleted this!

The Sims is a very addicting game. That’s indisputable. But today, I’m interested in exploring the why of the game. Why is The Sims so addicting? Why has it aged so well? Why do we enjoy controlling tiny, pixelated computer people that can’t communicate with us or give us anything in return?

12-30-18_5-07-12 pm

The short answer, I think, is that humans are interested in playing the role of “God” to give themselves a sense of power and control. Which, I know, may sound dark, but I think there’s a lot of truth in that. Also, when I say we like to play the role of “God”, I don’t mean so in a theological sense. I just truly think that we, as humans, enjoy being the ultimate controller of our environment. If we have the choice to make things our way, we jump at the chance, and quickly organize ourselves into a natural rhythm.

My rhythm, actually, is one of the more mundane, conventional uses of the game. I like my sims to wake up at the same time every day, use the bathroom, take a shower, and eat breakfast, in that order. Then, it’s off to work, or school, for the majority of the day, until the sims return home, go to bed, and repeat the same cycle the next day. Does it sound boring? Yes, it absolutely does. But, for some inexplicable reason, I am absolutely obsessed with it.

01-27-19_3-11-24 pm

I think that part of the reason I want to give my sims a happy, normal life is because I want to replicate the life I’m dreaming of for myself. I love to imagine myself in a life filled with order, organization, and repetition, and my sims are a perfect embodiment of the lifestyle that makes me happy. When everything goes to plan in my sims’ neighborhood, I feel extremely at peace.

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fantasy_escapism.png

There’s something called “escapism”, which I think really sums up the obsession people have with The Sims. Essentially, escapism refers to the idea that humans need to escape from the overbearing tensions of life, especially through the form of digital media. Maybe for you and your friends, it’s logging onto Netflix watching an adventurous television show, or taking a break to scroll through your phone, but for me, it’s The Sims. The game is a digital escape from reality- a place for me to create my own universe and fully immerse myself in it. Escapism, when used in a healthy amount, helps us to recharge our emotional batteries and give us a break from the toil of everyday life. It’s completely normal, and it’s something all of us do at some point in our day.
I’m curious if my diagnosed ADHD and OCD plays a role in my obsession with the sims, but then again, I know plenty of other people without those conditions who love The Sims as much as I do. Some people love to play the game conventionally as well- with a nuclear family, a family pet, a big, beautiful house, and a steady income. Other people enjoy the game for its interesting and even slightly humorous approach to death. Sims can die by old age, drowning, and electrocution, among other things, and are subsequently visited by the Grim Reaper to take their souls. Similarly to how a ten year-old girl might enjoy destroying her barbies for fun, teenagers and young adults alike find entertainment in killing off their sims. It’s just the element of shock and inappropriateness, I think, that draws gamers to giving their sims such horrible fates. To somebody who has never played The Sims, that might sound terrifying, but again, it’s all relative to the euphoria of being “God.”

01-28-19_9-30-58 pm

Additionally, The Sims has an element of storytelling that makes the gameplay appealing for writers, artists, and other creative minds. As someone who used to pick berries and flowers from my garden and pretend they were people living in a fantasy world, I liked the idea that you can be anything you want in The Sims. There are tons of expansion packs that introduce characters such as vampires, aliens, werewolves, and witches. The more expansion packs you purchase, the more intricate the game will become. I myself haven’t spent too much money on additional content, mostly due to the fact that they’re quite expensive, but I admire the appeal and purpose of these game enhancers.

There’s a deep reason The Sims franchise is so timeless and successful. It’s versatile, it’s creative, and it’s the perfect opportunity for both young and old gamers to explore their dream life. I am eager to see where The Sims 5 will bring us, assuming there is a 5, but I’m confident that it will continue to delight its fans with innovative, creative content. Now, I’m curious to hear your thoughts and experiences with The Sims. Do you prefer playing the game conventionally, or finding completely outrageous ways to (most likely) torture your sims? The possibilities are endless.

Escapism picture: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Escapism

Coming up next: The Movie Tag

The Sims is a very addicting game. That’s indisputable. But today, I’m interested in exploring the why of the game. Why is The Sims so addicting? Why has it aged so well? Why do we enjoy controlling tiny, pixelated computer people that can’t communicate with us or give us anything in return?

12-30-18_5-07-12 pm

The short answer, I think, is that humans are interested in playing the role of “God” to give themselves a sense of power and control. Which, I know, may sound dark, but I think there’s a lot of truth in that. Also, when I say we like to play the role of “God”, I don’t mean so in a theological sense. I just truly think that we, as humans, enjoy being the ultimate controller of our environment. If we have the choice to make things our way, we jump at the chance, and quickly organize ourselves into a natural rhythm.

My rhythm, actually, is one of the more mundane, conventional uses of the game. I like my sims to wake up at the same time every day, use the bathroom, take a shower, and eat breakfast, in that order. Then, it’s off to work, or school, for the majority of the day, until the sims return home, go to bed, and repeat the same cycle the next day. Does it sound boring? Yes, it absolutely does. But, for some inexplicable reason, I am absolutely obsessed with it.

01-27-19_3-11-24 pm

I think that part of the reason I want to give my sims a happy, normal life is because I want to replicate the life I’m dreaming of for myself. I love to imagine myself in a life filled with order, organization, and repetition, and my sims are a perfect embodiment of the lifestyle that makes me happy. When everything goes to plan in my sims’ neighborhood, I feel extremely at peace.

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fantasy_escapism.png

There’s something called “escapism”, which I think really sums up the obsession people have with The Sims. Essentially, escapism refers to the idea that humans need to escape from the overbearing tensions of life, especially through the form of digital media. Maybe for you and your friends, it’s logging onto Netflix watching an adventurous television show, or taking a break to scroll through your phone, but for me, it’s The Sims. The game is a digital escape from reality- a place for me to create my own universe and fully immerse myself in it. Escapism, when used in a healthy amount, helps us to recharge our emotional batteries and give us a break from the toil of everyday life. It’s completely normal, and it’s something all of us do at some point in our day.
I’m curious if my diagnosed ADHD and OCD plays a role in my obsession with the sims, but then again, I know plenty of other people without those conditions who love The Sims as much as I do. Some people love to play the game conventionally as well- with a nuclear family, a family pet, a big, beautiful house, and a steady income. Other people enjoy the game for its interesting and even slightly humorous approach to death. Sims can die by old age, drowning, and electrocution, among other things, and are subsequently visited by the Grim Reaper to take their souls. Similarly to how a ten year-old girl might enjoy destroying her barbies for fun, teenagers and young adults alike find entertainment in killing off their sims. It’s just the element of shock and inappropriateness, I think, that draws gamers to giving their sims such horrible fates. To somebody who has never played The Sims, that might sound terrifying, but again, it’s all relative to the euphoria of being “God.”

01-28-19_9-30-58 pm

Additionally, The Sims has an element of storytelling that makes the gameplay appealing for writers, artists, and other creative minds. As someone who used to pick berries and flowers from my garden and pretend they were people living in a fantasy world, I liked the idea that you can be anything you want in The Sims. There are tons of expansion packs that introduce characters such as vampires, aliens, werewolves, and witches. The more expansion packs you purchase, the more intricate the game will become. I myself haven’t spent too much money on additional content, mostly due to the fact that they’re quite expensive, but I admire the appeal and purpose of these game enhancers.

There’s a deep reason The Sims franchise is so timeless and successful. It’s versatile, it’s creative, and it’s the perfect opportunity for both young and old gamers to explore their dream life. I am eager to see where The Sims 5 will bring us, assuming there is a 5, but I’m confident that it will continue to delight its fans with innovative, creative content. Now, I’m curious to hear your thoughts and experiences with The Sims. Do you prefer playing the game conventionally, or finding completely outrageous ways to (most likely) torture your sims? The possibilities are endless.

Escapism picture: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Escapism

Coming up next: The Movie Tag

There is a pretty widely-accepted clash between science and religion. Buddhism, however, is one of the few religions that I have found through much research to defy all religious stereotypes. That’s not to say all other religions are universally against science, but Buddhism, in my opinion, significantly stands against the rest. At the core of all scientific exploration and discovery, we must start with the scientific method: forming a hypothesis, searching for facts, and the idea that knowledge gained through personal experience. Buddhism doesn’t rely on a holy text of higher beings to discipline you- it fully embraces the freedom of the mind.

 

photo of golden gautama buddha
Photo by Suraphat Nuea-on on Pexels.com

One of the best examples of this “freedom of mind” comes from the teaching, “Kalama Sutra.” It is a piece that inspires the Buddha’s audience to explore their personal sense of identity with curious independence. It is in human nature, after all, to question everything that is presented to us.

“Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ Rather, when you yourselves know that these things are good; these things are not blamable; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness, then and only then enter into and abide in them.”

affection blur buddha buddhism
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The goal of Buddhism is not to please a higher power through set ideals and missions. The goal is self-discovery, curiosity, and deeper thinking. The goal is questioning everything that has been presented before you, and utilizing what brings you a sense of joy and fulfillment. And, more notably, Buddhism emphasises the impartial investigation of nature. There is an extremely strong correlation between Buddhism and nature- especially including ways in which we can use nature to strengthen our worldly connection. The spiritual ideas expressed by Buddhism can be interpreted quite literally as well, especially when pertaining to science. One of the most well-known prospects of Buddhism is the idea that everything is recycled and reborn, and that’s easily applicable into biology. I mean, think about the literal recycling of molecules. After death, everything is recycled and rebirthed back into the rhythm of nature. Buddhism not only accepts this phenomenon, but embraces and encourages us to think about it in terms of our own self-growth. Buddhism and psychology are a whole ‘nother tangent I could explore, especially in regards to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (Seriously, let me know if you want to see that).

Whether or not you identify as a Buddhist (I actually identify as an atheist,) it’s still worth it, in my opinion, to explore the teachings of the Buddha. I’ve been listening to Ajahn Brahm’s talks on the Buddhist Society of Western Australia’s youtube channel for about six years now, and have learned more about life through those videos than I have in any classroom or textbook. Self-discovery through religion doesn’t have to be limited to a god or deity; sometimes, you can be your own higher power.

Source: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/is-buddhism-the-most-science-friendly-religion/

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