Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays
I was once on a public elementary school field trip to the Science Museum of Minnesota and I saw Bruce there with his mom (he went to a private school).  They weren’t there with anyone else, no classmates, no teachers, just the two of them.  It was a treat to see my best friend on a weekday, since I would only see Bruce on Sundays at church (his family lived about 15-20 minutes away via car).  As cool as my classmates were, nothing was better than getting permission from my teacher to ditch the group during our lunch hour and hang out with my best friend. The prospect of leaving your public school field trip group is pretty unheard of these days, so I’m not exactly sure how I pulled it off. Regardless, it was good times.

I’ve always loved going to museums, maybe not as much as the arcade or the baseball stadium (or Metrodome, if you will), but it was something I was excited about. Especially since the Science Museum of Minnesota is pretty top notch and perhaps this is why moving to San Diego was kind of underwhelming. I wasn’t a big fan of the museums and since San Diego seemed like a big deal (population and popularity wise) compared to my beloved Twin Cities, I expected bigger and better museums.

As enriching as I find museums, they can also be pretty draining. Perhaps it’s my lack of attention span, but I can only take so much learning in one day. My trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York almost overwhelmed me to the point where I needed to call someone before my head exploded. After seeing so many famous paintings and absorbing all those vibrant colors just sent far too much information to my brain to process.  It was stimulation overload and sometimes I need something a little low-brow to bring myself some balance.
Usually museums have something to provide me with some sort of “break”. At the Science Museum of Minnesota, it was the musical stairs. At the Getty, I usually talk a walk in the garden and throw coins into the pond, at LACMA it was that giant metal balloon dog, and at the Brooklyn Museum, it was watching Murakami cartoons and music videos before hitting up the rest of the exhibit.  Maybe I just need to go to museums more often to build endurance, much like training for a marathon.  Maybe I’m just getting the equivalent of “side stitches” when I feel like i need to jump around the musical stairs.
Occasionally I’ll get a break just by observing my other spectators, like the occasional asian teenage girl next to her mom mad dogging while her dad takes the picture. Or I’ll get the confused toddler putting on 3D glasses in the gift shop. Of course none of this matters if you’re the only one to see it. It’s in the same vein as a film or a good book, a discussion is the second half of the museum experience. Obviously there is a certain amount of pleasure taken in seeing something, but there’s something special about discussing it as well. Like most places, museums are often best enjoyed in good company.

So whether you’re discussing the latest masterpiece, or the little child that’s wading into the fountain, make sure you know someone nearby because there’s always going to be something to talk about.

Chris takes a lot of pride that he’s on the top of my favorites list on my phone’s speed dial. Maybe “pride” isn’t the right word, but he definitely likes to hold that over Jessica’s head (who is #2), and he takes even greater pleasure to see Bruce is #3. Honestly, Chris is at the top of my favorites because I typically communicate with Jessica via text and Bruce via google-chat more than I do via phone, but why should I steal his thunder?

Obviously, Chris isn’t actually so petty (I don’t think so at least) that he seriously takes pride in being on the top of my call list. He just likes to play his part in this fake feud that he and Bruce are kind of, but not really involved in. It’s been well established (in these writings even) that Chris and Bruce are my two best friends. They’ve never actually met each other and the fact that Bruce went to college in Pittsburgh (where Chris grew up) a year after I met Chris kind of makes things very coincidental.

I believe this feud started in college when Chris told me that living apart from my best friend for the past [15 years now and counting] should disqualify him from being my best friend. I wouldn’t say that this upset Bruce or even really affected him, but it kind of started the quasi-feud which has culminated into some trash talking during some Halo games mostly.

All this absurdity ended about half a year ago, when Chris and I went to the hardware store to pickup an iron skillet so we could make some steaks. Bruce had previously raved to me about iron skillets and I had decided to finally take the plunge. On the way to the store, Chris asked me what brand of skillet I was thinking about buying and I quickly replied “Lodge” because that’s the brand that Bruce had recommended to me. Chris agreed that Lodge was the brand that he would also recommend but he then accused Bruce of recommending Lodge because they were based out of Pittsburgh and that Bruce was trying to aid the local economy. I quickly shot down the accusation because Bruce was no longer in Pittsburgh and rarely said anything positive about it, but Chris was insistent about it and decided to use his Blackberry to prove that Lodge was based out of Pittsburgh. (Probably the most absurd part of the accusation was that if anyone was from Pittsburgh, it was Chris who had lived there for about 10 years.)

I waited in line and paid for the skillet as Chris typed away. I wasn’t sure what the basis for all this was.  Even if Lodge was based in Pittsburgh, he still needed to prove that Bruce was secretly some sort of Pittsburgh-centric nationalist.  His case was extremely flimsy whether he was right or wrong. Bruce left Pittsburgh right after graduating from Carnegie Mellon and has only been back there for functions to reunite with friends.  He didn’t take any extra semesters (also, probably because it’s so expensive), so there really wasn’t any reason to believe that he had an affinity for the local area.

Chris finally found the Lodge web page and he looked defeated. Lodge was indeed based in Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh, Tennessee. Chris conceded, his already flimsy case had been reduced to rubble.  I teased him, but rather than pour salt in his wounds, I poured some salt over our steaks.  I imagine one day Chris and Bruce will meet, and I’ll even make the guess that they’ll get along fine when they do.  Maybe they’ll make some jokes at my expense to break the ice, or maybe they’ll just share about their individual experiences, living in Pittsburgh.

So there’s a bit of confusion is raised when people ask me about college. People assume I was a film major when I entered UC Irvine or at least that I was undecided. The truth is that I entered UC Irvine as a computer engineering major. I never took a single engineering class before changing to film, but people still think it’s preposterous that I even thought to choose something in a non-creative field in the first place. Taking a look back, I can understand this confusion. Writing has always naturally to me so computer engineering was kind of an elaborate detour.

I don’t think I have a random train of thought. I think that my train of thought is linear, perhaps not a straight line, but linear nonetheless. I like to think it’s like a treasure map, and like a treasure map, it leads to riches, but throughout my life, my ability to story tell through writing has been consistent.  From my little band interviewing site, to the ridiculous Bottle Rocket-esque Christmas skit that I staged at my parents’ church in front of a crowd that didn’t understand English, I’ve enjoyed writing on a non-academic level for some time. I wish I could talk about some grand epiphany I had while listening to A Prairie Home Companion that led me down this route but really what it comes down to is a simple little book that I read in the 5th Grade called Incognito Mosquito: Private Insective.

We read this story in 5th grade and it was an enjoyable enough. It didn’t really make you think, it was just humorous parody. We were given an assignment afterwards to write a story of some kind. I’m fuzzy on the logistics but I remember having to read our stories out in front of the entire class. I remember having about 5 pages typed out and as I read my story out loud, I was getting a lot of laughs out of my classmates, and as I hit one of my last pages, I had thought of a bunch of funny things to add to my story. So, that’s what I did. I made things up on the spot and I probably added what would amount to 2-3 pages more without my teacher knowing.

The response for my story was positive and now that I look back, was the first time I can remember enjoying myself as a writer. It wasn’t until after I switched into my film studies major that I realized that this was something I was good at and enjoyed doing, and that I’ve been doing it all along. Incognito Mosquito: Private Insective was the catalyst for all of these things. I’ll admit that I haven’t read the story since 5th grade or any of it’s subsequent sequels, but that’s not important. This story has lead me down this road, and even though it doesn’t even have a wikipedia page, deserves my acknowledgement.

(This Story Was Originally Written On 8/28/08)

I hated high school even before I enrolled in high school. Part of my hatred stemmed from the angst that I had from my move to San Diego in 6th grade, and part of it was my sister telling me that high school was full of back stabbing insecure idiots. The fact that I was going to school with a bunch of affluent kids probably certainly didn’t help matters, and this was long before I realized that I actually didn’t come from a poor family, my parents just liked to make me think that was the case.

Whenever I tell someone that grew up in California that I moved from Minnesota, they tend to think that I must be ecstatic that I’m here, and that’d I’d be insane if I ever wanted to leave. Perhaps I’d agree with them if I didn’t move to the community of San Diego that I moved to, where it was just beginning to be developed and where everything was built on a hill. So pretty much, the deck was stacked against me and I was stuck to toil for 4 years before I was, more or less saved by Orange County (which I’ve since realized is full of its own faults).

I tend to think I’d be happier going to high school in Minnesota even though the suburb I grew up in was starting to unravel as we left. I figured that at some point, I would’ve been sent to the same private school as Bruce, but my sister points out I would’ve gone to the same private school that she went to, which is one I didn’t want to go to (her graduating class had 7 people in it), if I didn’t go to the local public school. It was moot, but it was something I contemplated while I sat around this brand spanking new high school (7 years old when I enrolled in it).

I had absolutely no school spirit. I didn’t goto football games, tried to ditch pep rallys, and didn’t try to help fund raise for our class. But my list of extra curriculars, on the other hand, is pretty embarrassing: Academic Decathlon, Academic League, Science Olympiad, Key Club, History Club, and probably a few more that I can’t remember. The only thing that was missing was the Bombardment Society. How I was able to balance these while ditching school to goto Jack in the Box is pretty impressive, in my humble opinion. I attended every meeting that I could, even though I couldn’t make them all since they often overlapped. Still these activities were not enough for me. I felt like I needed something to put me over the top, and I finally found something, a music reviewing site.

My friend Ted and I decided to make an online “zine” where we’d review music and book interviews. He designed a nice looking site and it was able to land us an interview with Low, a band that I was (and still am) a big fan of. After landing Low, we’d e-mail other bands about interviews, name dropping Low to give us some credibility, and surprisingly it worked. Elf Power, Super Furry Animals, Creeper Lagoon, Mike Watt, Jets to Brazil and Sense Field eventually said “yes” to us, and we ended up wrapping up our site with an interview with Death Cab for Cutie.

I’m pretty sure the ‘zine didn’t get me far (or at least into Cornell or Northwestern, which is what I was aiming for) and I burned out on the music ‘zine sometime into my 2nd year of college. I felt like I couldn’t enjoy music as much as a reviewer, and I couldn’t enjoy concerts because I’d be so stressed thinking of how I was going to write up the interview. (Perhaps this is why Pitchfork seems so grouchy all the time.) I don’t regret giving it a shot, especially since there was barely any financial investment on my end. From learning about Alan and Mimi of Low going to their high school homecoming dance together, to Mike Watt telling me about his Dad thinking that being in a punk band made Mike a communist, I learned a lot behind these people that I admired so dearly. I still to this day see the fingerprints of these artists over my life. I even realize that a screenplay I’ve written pretty much embodies the principles of a song that Blake Schwarzenbach wrote (Boxcar, yeah I know it’s the popular Jawbreaker song, but whatevs). (Writer’s note: don’t know who Blake is? Look up “underrated” in the dictionary. He was also the lead singer of Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil). I’m glad to see that a lot of them have found success and hopefully one day will know that their stories have inspired me to tell mine.

(This story was originally written on 8/27/2008)

I think naming a child is a special time in a parent’s life. I think it’s also something that should be taken seriously because of the long term implications it can have on the child for the rest of his/her life. Naming a child is not like naming a pet. A pet will act the same way whether its name is Nathaniel or Spot. A person on the other hand, I’m not so sure. I don’t think it’d be fair to name your son Spot and expect him to be a rocket scientist. There’s nothing about the name Spot that screams out “honor student”, but there’s definitely something about naming your kid Spot that says Spot is coming from a shallow gene pool.

Now I hope there aren’t parents in this country that actually name their kids Spot, and it’s not because I’m afraid of offending anyone, it’s a bad name. You don’t necessarily have to give a kid a special or unique name, or even a unique spelling, just don’t give them a bad one. If you’re going to be one of those beauty pageant moms, don’t name your daughter Gertrude. If you want your son to be an intellectual, don’t name him Butch. If you don’t want your son to be a NASCAR junkie, don’t name him Billy Joe Bob. It’s pretty simple. If you’re not sure what you want, name your kid a stock name like Mike or Kristen. Sure they could go in any direction with a normal name, but at least it’s not YOUR fault. See, certain names lead to certain assumptions, and while it may not be fair, this is something that a parent can control. It’s unfortunate how often I’ve seen parents fail at this important responsibility.

I met a girl named Charity, and she’s pretty much a walking punchline. I don’t really know anything about her but I did find out later that her reputation is pretty much on point with her name. Am I saying she wouldn’t be promiscuous if her name WASN’T Charity. Absolutely not. Do I think her name being Charity pretty much made it inevitable? Pretty much.

I think people get their name changed because they want to change their fate. My friend Chris divulged to me the information that he was born Chris, but when he was 5, demanded his parents change his name to Christopher because it should be his choice to decide if the name should be shortened or not. Surprisingly, he’s not an anal retentive bastard, but I’m sure if he made everyone call him Christopher, he would be. Would just being Chris have led him down another path in life? Apparently at the age of 5, he thought it would.

Probably the most practical name change I’ve heard about came from a guy named Mike. His legal name was Richard, which is a fine name, but his last name made things problematic. See, his full name was Richard Hancock which translates to Dick Hancock. It’s really one of those cases where you wonder what his parents were thinking, if they were thinking at all.

My best friend was born Jang-Soo Lee. Jang-Soo is a Korean name and it was the name that I knew him by until he turned 18. It’s not that turning 18 made him want to change his name, it’s that turning 18 meant he was going to go to college. Now, he’s not one of those weird kids who think that going to a new place means they can be someone different, with a new identity, but he’s one of those kids who has to teach people how to pronounce his name correctly and gets frustrated when the International Students department starts sending him e-mails assuming he’s not from the States (born and raised in Minnesota). See, Jang-Soo went to a private school from 1st grade to 12th, so his name was not an issue since he was at the same school with a lot of the same kids, so when he hit college and found out he had to teach people his name, he became Bruce. Bruce Lee.

I went to visit Bruce in Fairfax, Virginia a couple of years ago. We went to karaoke with his roommates a couple of his friends. I was told that someone was coming by the name of Harry. Harry Wang. To be fair, he was from China and “Wang” is actually pronounced “Wong”, but you know, that’s not going to stop Bruce and I from giggling uncontrollably. Harry was a nice guy but obviously did not understand why Bruce and I were in such good spirits over the course of the night. Songs were sung, much fun was had, and the car ride back was kind of a surreal experience as I realized I was sitting next to a Bruce Lee and a Harry Wang.