What You Should Know About Martial Arts

October 8, 2017 - Leave a Response

There are many myths, misconceptions and downright bizarre attitudes and behaviors that many people have about martial arts. The purpose of this blog entry, is to dispel that nonsense and at the same time, be educational.

Let’s start with the weird behaviors:

  • Don’t laugh. While people who study martial arts typically enjoy it, we also take it seriously. We train in public or private because like most things, you use it or you lose it. It’s not cute, and it’s not funny. This is both a sport and an art form, and it’s intense. Martial arts can and will inflict serious bodily harm upon someone, and in many cases permanently injure or kill a person. The history of the majority of martial arts styles across Asia are rooted in monasteries and the military, and that’s not the kind of thing you joke about.
  • Don’t mimic us. You should never try to do something you see a martial artist do without proper training, no matter how easy you may think it is. Secondly, mimicking us makes you look like a fool, and it’s extremely rude. A couple of years ago, I mentioned to my Japanese language teacher that I had studied Kenpo, and she actually mimicked what she thought was Kenpo… I just sat there staring at her and eventually said to her, “What are you doing?” It was upsetting enough that I never talked about Kenpo or any martial arts during class ever again.
  • Don’t ask us to show off. Unless you are going to give me a huge wad of cash for showing off, don’t ask me to “show you some moves”. They aren’t moves, they are techniques and skills, and they aren’t for your entertainment. If you want to watch martial arts that badly, go watch Bruce Lee, or Jackie Chan, or some other dude who made money off of making us look silly.
  • Don’t ask us if we can do things that aren’t humanly possible. Like spinning around in the air ten times, bending or breaking steel, or any other superhuman thing you saw in the movies. Those things aren’t real, they will never be real, and I personally don’t wish they were real. As much respect as I had for Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid films, there’s a moment where he rubs his hands together vigorously and touches Daniel’s injured leg to “heal” it with his “energy”, and physics says a big fat NO to stuff like that.

Myths and Misconceptions:

  • Martial arts are not about fighting. Setting aside the military history, martial arts in both technique and culture are not about fighting. Most people who study this don’t get into fights. We don’t seek out fights, and we go out of our way to avoid them. Not just for our own safety, but because we know our own strength, and would rather not have to hurt another person unless we have no choice.
  • What happens in the movies is not legitimate martial arts. Creative at times, based on martial arts, but not martial arts. The Thai film “Chocolate” is one of a select few martial art movies I actually like, because it’s the most realistic looking one I’ve ever seen. But the superhuman behaviors of those enormously high jump kicks, or wall climbing, are usually CGI or performed by stunt workers with special effects assistance (Jackie Chan does his own stunts though). The star martial artist in the real world would not get attacked by each enemy one by one. They’d get swarmed by the pack and probably die. If a group of people who intended to hurt me ever approached me on the street, I’d run like hell, because I cannot fight off a group and even the most skilled martial artists can’t either.
  • Most of us aren’t very talented. Anyone who is not trained in or knowledgeable about something will say a more skilled person is talented. That’s a nice compliment, but with some rare exceptions, we aren’t talented. I don’t see myself as talented. Martial arts at its core, can be learned by just about anybody. It’s a rare few who take it to the next level and create their own style from it. I was always a fast learner and the form came relatively easy for me, but that’s actually how I am with most things. When it comes to creating my own style, I’m at a serious loss. Martial arts weren’t intended to be tweaked and mixed up, they are passed down from teacher to student in the same way over and over again to preserve the core of that style, so mixing things up is a bit strange.
  • We aren’t a bunch of badass mofos. I’m definitely a badass mofo when it comes to creative writing, but in regard to martial arts, definitely not! We aren’t these macho men and women walking around in full leather and firing death glares at everything that moves. I wear dresses and make-up.
  • Weapon usage and defense against them. Some styles use weapons like swords, short swords, double sticks, bo staffs, and others. Some styles are strictly focused on body techniques and nothing else. A lot of American teachers like to show young students ways to disarm attackers, basically take away a knife or gun and use it against your enemy. If a teacher ever tries to show you stuff like that, find a new school immediately. That nonsense will get you killed. Knife attacks are lightning quick, and you won’t have time to pull off those fancy moves when a knife is flying at you, or into you repeatedly. Same goes for guns. If you take someone’s gun away from them, you will break or possibly tear off their trigger finger, and if you shoot them, you be wounding or killing an unarmed person. We cannot always run when confronted by someone with a weapon, but running is always your best option. There’s no shame in running, because that’s how you stay alive. I do own a pair of 30 inch wooden sticks, and I enjoy training with them, but they are a dangerous weapon, which is something I always keep in the back of my mind.

 

Advertisements

Many people put more effort into avoiding caring, than actually caring.

October 5, 2017 - Leave a Response

When I was a kid, for the life of me, I could never understand why I was repeatedly bullied by other kids. I went through so many phases of “understanding” throughout my life. First, I was totally perplexed and cried out to the adults around me, my parents, teachers, neighbors, to help me. I was convinced by them that it was better to ignore it, so that transitioned me into the phase of acting like it was just the way things were. By the time I was in sixth grade, I started to truly believe something was wrong with me, and that’s why other kids hated me. Then my mother tried to boost my confidence by saying that it happened because they didn’t understand who I was, and didn’t like that I was different. Good attempt on her part, but that actually made it worse. By the time I hit high school, I was so severely clinically depressed that I had been suicidal twice.

From pretending like it wasn’t happening, to being okay with it, to blaming who I was for what other people did to me; the bottom line was that everyone around me was trying to dodge the issue. The ones who were hurting me weren’t the ones deserving of being punished, and instead I was punished for expecting them to care about my well-being. And in my early twenties, I finally realized why I was bullied – no one cared except for me, the victim.

No matter how much kindness, love and respect I poured into the world during my whole life up to that point, it did not stop the bullies from hurting me. It was my job to be a good person, but it wasn’t my job to teach this kids how to give a crap about another human being. All of my time as a teacher, and all of my education in child development, has taught me that the earliest years of a child’s life will shape who they become later on, and how they treat others. If you bring up your children with the attitude to be complacent to another’s pain and suffering, they are almost always guaranteed to become a bully. I’m not basing this on a fancy research study, I’m basing this on my personal experience. I saw mean kids in the making with my own two eyes.

Nowadays, I work at a drop off indoor play area for young kids. We get the standard bullies who jump on other kids in the ball-pit, or throw balls at the other kids’ faces. We get more serious bullies who are so aggressive they have to be removed from the play area, and sadly, those are kids we cannot reason with. But when the standard bullies pull their nonsense, I blame them for their behavior. I say to them, “You just threw a ball at his/her face. That is hurting him/her. There’s so many cool things you can do in here, and the only thing you can think of is to hurt someone?” I often remind them of, or redirect them to things they can do, especially things they can do together. One of my favorites is when balls spill out of the ball-pit, and I have every single get out of the pit to put the balls back. Anyone who protests gets told, “All of you are going to work together, because there’s no reason why you can’t help each other.” This works with any kid at any age, because it’s not a simple “no”. I’m not yelling or using time-out or telling someone to ignore it. I call it what it is, an act that hurts another person. Most of the time, they don’t do it again. Those that do, I warn them that spoiling the fun of the other kids means I will call their parent/guardian and have them removed from the play area. There’s a standard I hold these kids to, and you may think it’s too sophisticated for them, but, it works. I’m not going to talk to them like they are bad kids or that they are stupid and will never understand. Children are fully capable of being good, loving and respectable people if you nurture that quality and teach them how to make their natural kindness even stronger.

The Fist.

August 22, 2017 - Leave a Response

When I was seven years old, I had had enough. I was frustrated with my home life, and the way my classmates were treating me. I was frustrated by the way my teachers would stand by and watch other kids make fun of me and try to hurt me, without ever caring to help, even if I begged and pleaded for help. I became so angry that I let the rage sink deep inside me, to the point where I wanted to die. I sought out help. Doing so made me stop and think about my position in the world. I am human. I am alive. Letting my life crumble around me was not an option, and I needed a solution. I asked my parents to let me study martial arts.

I was enrolled in Middletown Kenpo Karate School, also referred to as MKKS. The founder, Lee Lowery, introduced himself as Professor Lowery. I was in awe of how tall he was, the power of his handshake, and his calm, gentle demeanor. Beneath that I could see a fun, happy person, but as a teacher, he would set aside his humor for his students. Prof. Lowery took one look at me and he could tell I was a very, very pissed off seven year old who needed a vent. After talking to my parents for a little while, he showed me the correct way to make a fist. I was seven, but, I had no idea back then there was a correct way to make a fist. That alone blew my mind. He then picked up a punching bag and challenged me to hit it, a lot. He went from very calm to very loud and intense as he shouted “Come on, hit it! Show me what you’ve got!” I probably hit the punching bag over twenty times before my fists couldn’t take it anymore. I wasn’t worried about whether or not I did anything correct or incorrect, I just liked how calm I felt after beating the snot out of a punching bag.

Like 99% of martial arts schools back then, I started as a white belt. Everyone does. I walked in expecting to learn all sorts of techniques and fancy things and I wanted to be awesome. You can imagine my surprise when the first lesson I learned was, “run away”. Starting a fight is completely unnecessary. It doesn’t matter how much you dislike a person or hate them, what they say or what they look like, what disability or background they have. Nothing will ever justify putting your hands on another person and attempting to hurt them. The human body is a deadly weapon. If someone approaches you and wants to hurt you, and you can run away, then you run away. Set aside your ego, your pride, ignore what your friends or family tell you to do. You run because you don’t need to hurt someone to prove you are strong. Strength is caring about your own well-being AND the well-being of your opponent.

The second lesson we learned was form. Form is knowing the right stance. Without the right stance, you cannot use your techniques. And without your techniques, you cannot defend yourself if you have no choice but to fight back.

I have spent my entire life since I was seven years old, keeping myself out of situations where I am unable to escape, and would be forced to fight back. I do not wish harm on other people, physical, mental or emotional. I want people to be able to go home to their families unharmed and enjoy their day. To take joy in simple moments like watching their favorite television show or playing with their kids. On August 15th, at around 4:00 pm, that’s all I wanted for the woman who attacked me.

I kept myself calm. I gave her plenty of warnings. I knew what she wanted to do, because she had no qualms about approaching me. She put her hands behind her back as she approached, which is the easiest way to tell if someone has a weapon. I knew all of this, and I still tried to get her to simply back away. In that moment, if she had made one move toward me, I could have pushed her down the stairs of the front porch and seriously injured her. Injured her in front of the children who were sitting inside her car about twenty feet away. She is very lucky that didn’t happen to her.

She was pepper sprayed in the face by my mother. She still came for me. And I tried to escape. I was thrown into a chair on the porch, threatened to be killed and savagely beaten. I tucked my head down after the first punch and guarded my face and neck with my arms. I guarded my vitals with my left thigh, and used my right leg to kick furiously. I was able to block some of her punches. I kicked her far enough back where I could get my feet under me and almost escaped the chair, but was pushed back by another person who was involved. I was beaten on again. In that moment I realized, I had no choice but to hurt her. I had to stop trying to make myself a less interesting target, and instead do serious harm. I hate that I had to think about hurting another person.

My attacker was running out of stamina. All I had done up to this point was guard and kick with one leg. Her stomach was wide open, so I made the fist Prof. Lowery had taught me, and I tried to punch. I was restrained by the other person. If I had hit her, it would have been in her diaphragm, which would have knocked the wind right out of her and probably sent her to the ground.

She tried to move around to my right side, which made me to turn in the direction she was going. She had a fistful of my hair, and was still hitting me. I had become so enraged at this point, because I felt like I was being tortured, so I screamed. I put my feet down. I let her pull me forward by the hair and slid myself forward enough that I could lift myself. I blocked several of her blows, gave her a sloppy palm strike in the chest, and broke free. I lost a lot of hair because of this, so I have a fancy bald spot on my head. It’s actually shaped like her fist. At first I was angry that I lost some hair. But now I point it out to people I know, and I refuse to wear hats or try to hide it in any way. I’m proud of my bald spot. Letting her pull me up by the hair is how I escaped. I definitely don’t out-weigh her in size. I’m not physically stronger than her. But I am definitely smarter. I suffered a concussion, but I was not stabbed, or worse, beaten to death. I survived.

Let this be a lesson to anyone else who thinks that they can attack me again. Don’t think I haven’t noticed that you send your son on his bike to scout for my whereabouts. I don’t need a child, or a gang, or even an officer of the law, to see you coming. When you put your hands on me, you crossed a line. If you, or anyone you know, tries to harm me again, you will not be afforded the compassion that I gave you during the first attack.

Don’t Glorify What Chester Bennington Did

July 26, 2017 - Leave a Response

Less than a week ago on July 20th, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park committed suicide by hanging in his family home. He was discovered by his housekeeper, and if you choose to listen to the 911 call, this poor soul can be heard crying and shouting in the background.

Based on her cries alone, no one should glorify or condone what Chester did. His act was violent, disturbing, and heartbreaking to his family, bandmates, and fans.

Fans have now erupted with a strange theory that because Chester had purchased the home where he died just a couple of months prior to committing suicide, he was setting up his family for life. I ask you, a life of what, exactly? Talinda knowing that her husband killed himself in the home that he bought for them, and might have expected them to live in that home afterward? A life of being a single parent and her children knowing that they won’t have their father with them for the rest of their childhood and teen years. When they go to school, he won’t be there to kiss them goodbye. When they join a team, he won’t be there to cheer them on. He can’t help them with their homework, help them pick out a college, or just savor the little things that make your children wonderful. Children are strong but they are also vulnerable. He has put them in a position where they might blame themselves, or even have behavioral problems at home or in school. The reality is, no matter how you want to spin it, he has hurt his children.

Chester’s bandmates are now forced to grieve the loss of their friend. Without Chester, Linkin Park is unable to function, not just in the short term with the appropriate cancellation of their tour, but in the long term, how will they be able to make music together? In their open letter to Chester a few days after he died, they stated that he left a void that cannot be filled. They are absolutely right.

With so many fans glorifying Chester’s violent act, blindly sympathizing with him and justifying what he did, I have deep concerns for their own mental stability and health. If we end up hearing about a young teen who attempts to harm themselves or does commit suicide, and claims it was influenced by Chester, I won’t be surprised. I hope with every ounce of my being that this scenario never happens.

I’m not inclined to make Chester the poster-child for depression and suicide or share a prevention hotline here. I’m not going to “make people aware” of suicide and depression only when someone dies then forget all about it until the next person chooses to end their life.

At some point, we’re going to have to bring celebrities back down to our level and hold them responsible for their actions, even in death.

I realize that this is an unpopular opinion and will likely be met with people telling me I’m insensitive to what Chester was going through, or that I have no right to speak on the topic of suicide and those effected by it. I feel this is reaction is born from the assumption that someone who disagrees with someone’s choice to commit suicide has never experienced depression or thoughts of harming themselves. My own experience with depression and suicide is exactly why I feel the way I feel. I live for the sake of myself, but at the end of the day, I also know that killing myself would leave a wave of destruction in the lives of many. I would never allow my legacy to be that of hurting so many people.

That being said, because of the many years that I spent engulfed by depression, I know exactly what it feels like. Yes, it is a chemical imbalance, but the way you live your life also has a dramatic effect on how you feel. If you live your life in an unhappy way, you will be unhappy. I can definitely say for myself that in January of 2006, when I started teaching, I noticed something different about myself. By the end of that year, I was a completely different person, and I have not been clinically depressed since.

I had a complicated, dark and hurtful childhood. Life was not easy for me, and the damage that my upbringing did can never be fully repaired. When I was seven years old, I wanted to die. I felt that I did not have a place in the world, that I was worthless, and that my life would never get better. I didn’t have six children, a loving wife, an incredible band of friends who loved and respected me, or a massive fanbase that cared about my well-being and talent. I had to sit back and teach myself a lesson that no one in my life at that time could teach me: Death is a part of nature, but suicide is not. Suicide is not normal. I could not allow myself to be the sort of person who would devalue myself, and at the same time hurt others.

Suicide is a level of narcissism that should never be condoned.

The Depth of a Youtuber

June 23, 2017 - Leave a Response

As some of you who read my posts regularly know, I have a channel on Youtube that is titled “theartbook35”. This is an old internet handle that I’ve used since I was 13, which means I’ve been using this handle for 17 years. If you really need to know, I borrowed a book from a library back then that was titled “The Art Book”, and I just liked the sound of it. When we got CompuServe (the shitty AOL alternative and a testament to my age), I made “theartbook” my username. A short time later, I added the number 35, purely because that’s my favorite number. It’s my go-to username on every site I join (at least when I want people to know it’s me), because it’s never unavailable about 99% of the time. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with my channel’s content, which is primarily Minecraft survival series (modded and vanilla), building and the occasional retro game.

Since March of 2015 I’ve been uploading regularly to my channel. I get a lot of enjoyment out of making videos, because I can make whatever I want and know that the handful of people who watch my videos, actually like what I do. Of course my aim is to have more than 250 subscribers, and I’d like for my channel to become a source of income for me. But I’m also old in spirit, so I’m not banking on ad revenue being my only source of money. That’s why I have a somewhat standard job at a retail store. Working in retail is not always glamorous, but my work environment is a huge step up in comparison to Walmart and Target, as well as other retail chains, and the only thing less glamorous than retail is being unemployed. I’m happy where I am, devoted to the work I do and I have no plans to ever become unemployed again, even if my Youtube channel gains millions of subscribers in the future.

One thing I can say about myself is that even though I have fun with life, because of my old-fashioned brain, I take things seriously. Even my videos can be serious business. I swear up a storm sometimes in my commentary, say silly things and temporarily return to my childhood, but I have standards at the same time. If my commentary is shit quality, or the video footage is shit quality, it will not go on my channel. And believe me, I know when something is bad quality, especially if I know it’s something I wouldn’t watch. I’m gentle about how I advertise my videos within my videos. I keep my intros short and to the point. I tell people at the end of each video that if they enjoyed the content, they have the option to leave a like or a comment or possibly subscribe. I have an end screen and that’s it. I’m not going to beg people to stay, because if they’re going to stay, then they have the sense to make that choice, and I’m not desperate to be popular. Do I want to be popular? Technically, yes. I somewhat define popularity as a lot of people liking me. There’s nothing wrong with me wanting to be liked by a bunch of people. Who doesn’t want people to like them? But my entire idea of being popular is more along the lines of people enjoying my videos, and responding to my commentary so we can create interesting discussions in the comment section. Why should the enjoyment of a video stop when the video itself stops? I’m not trying to make my channel educational (even though I have worked as a teacher for many years), I just don’t have the heart to throw videos at people and pretend to care about my subscribers. I need to speak to people, which I see many content creators on Youtube fail to do.

When it comes to Youtubers who conduct themselves in a way that I disagree with, I am not going to name names, no matter how badly I want to. I have a very different idea of expressing my opinion than how people younger than me like to express themselves nowadays. It’s very hard for me to not call out someone directly and hold them to task or make them responsible for their actions/behavior. I don’t get offended by the little shit, especially when it’s not even shit, and only the big shit can make me speak up. But I have observed a trend on Youtube for a long time, where gamers beg for subscribers and to “smash that like button”, and they don’t give a flying fuck about the people who watch their videos. Those subscribers they’ve accumulated don’t even register on their humanity scales. I may not have millions of subscribers, but the 250 that I have I definitely earned, and if I earn millions, I sure as hell won’t objectify them the way these kids like to. And don’t you dare even think of telling me I’m doing one of those holier than thou things, or being snooty, because I’m not better than other people. I just had the unfortunate experience of being objectified for most of my life, and that experience has taught me to never do that to someone else.

There are a select few Youtubers who I feel like have some real depth to who they are. My all time favorite channel is “ochikeron”, whose videos are about Japanese home-cooked meals, traditional Japanese recipes and the artistry of cooking. Another favorite of mine is “Grant Thompson”, who refers to himself as the King of Random because his channel’s content doesn’t fit into a particular mold. Science experiments, projects, decorations, tools, it just goes on and on and on. And it’s funny because unlike ochikeron, who makes videos about recipes that I actually use in my day to day life, Grant Thompson’s projects and experiments are things that I would never try. I love science like you wouldn’t believe, and I enjoy watching him try these things, but they serve absolutely no purpose to my every day life. I think my fascination with his channel is that beyond the videos, he’s a husband with four children and has responsibilities outside of Youtube.

One of the best experiences I have ever had with my channel, is being able to tell my subscribers that I have important things going on in my life outside of Youtube, and those things will impact my ability to record and/or edit my videos. And I make it a point to remind people that I care about my channel, but I also care about my family, friends and my retail job a lot more. My subscribers respect this, and it’s probably because I’m honest with them. The best thing I learned from working as a salesperson, is that if you make people feel like they are obligated to buy what you are selling, you are lying to their faces and that is hurtful. I understand, and my subscribers understand that Youtube is not everything; it is not the end all and be all and it never will be. Youtube will not last forever, no matter how popular it may be right now. Just like how Facebook replaced Myspace, Twitch can replace Youtube. And it honestly scares the hell out of me how many young people devote themselves to their “Youtube careers”, quit their jobs and in some cases sell their souls for internet fame. The class, dignity and professionalism are thrown out the window, because they are so desperate for those likes and subscribers. I call bullshit on anyone in their early to mid 20’s who dares to say that they dreamed of being a Youtuber when they were younger. You’re on average only five years younger than me, and when you were a kid, Youtube wasn’t even a thing. I can’t say what you should be dreaming about, because your life is not mine to live, but I can say it shouldn’t be Youtube.

If anything, view Youtube has a stepping stone to greater possibilities. It’s a good way to build connections to other content creators, who often times know people that will be able to give you a recommendation or even get your feet in the door. For people who dream big, like visual art, publishing their books, acting, music, and other forms of entertainment, Youtube is a good avenue for these projects. This is where the depth of a Youtuber comes in. When Youtube eventually disappears, what will you go on to do? Migrate to another website and keep producing videos where you sell your soul, or will you pursue something that you actually love doing?

One Youtuber I want to discuss is Markiplier. He’s been a popular topic of discussion for a long time, for a lot of reasons. Most of the time it’s because people question how real he is, which is hilarious to me, given that people en mass don’t seem to question the legitimacy of the fakest Youtubers on the map. Is it really so hard to believe that someone on Youtube can be real and honest with his audience? The thing is, Mark is followed by millions of very young people, and he speaks to them and doesn’t subscribe to the bullshit that his fellow content creators subscribe to. And these young people couldn’t be bothered to listen to his suggestions of how to treat others; they’d rather tear fellow fans apart and harass each other just to prove they are the best fans ever. In the beginning, Mark drew in a good sized crowd of people who engaged in what he said, respected him as a person and appreciated the respect he gave them. This is basically what I have done with my channel thus-far. Not inspired by Mark of course because it comes naturally for me to act this way. But I do wonder from time to time, if my channel were to reach the level that Mark’s has reached, if I’d end up with a fanbase who is predominantly mean and nasty like his.

The one good thing I can say is that outside of Youtube, Markiplier has the power to walk away and go on to other things. His recent comedy/improv tour proved that. While I do think the tour was poorly organized, sloppy in places, and certainly not something that some of the people involved were ready for, I also appreciate his willingness to aim for something he’s passionate about. Mark was not required to give a fuck about his future. He was fully capable of sitting at home making gameplay videos and sucking off his fandom, but he chose a different avenue. He exercised this basic human quality called DEPTH. Again, while I don’t think the tour is the best thing ever created, I do think it’s a great example of who he is as a person and what creative endeavors he cares about. I hope other people can respect that, and have the insight to see his pathway choices as a form of wisdom and/or inspiration.

I can say for myself that if I ever get to a point where my Youtube channel serves no purpose in my life, I will be able to walk away and feel good about it. At the end of the day I am not a Youtuber, but instead an artist, writer and an educator. I have a future ahead of me. I hope that if you are a young content creator who is banking on Youtube being your career path, that you take what I have written here to heart and find something within yourself far more magical than begging people to smash like buttons and subscribe to your videos.

Thinking of Getting a Turtle? Read this first :)

May 31, 2017 - Leave a Response

I began my journey into reptile-land back in late 2008. It all began when my mother’s boyfriend at the time suggested getting a couple of aquatic turtles from a flea-market. I told him very firmly that I liked the idea of having turtles, but I wanted to do some research about a proper setup, diet, and other things that turtles may need since they obviously are nothing like cats and dogs. He told me he understood. And a week later he came home with two tiny aquatic turtles.

They were so tiny they fit in the center of my palm. My mom liked how active the smaller of the two was, so she started calling her Hurricane. I wanted their names to match somewhat, so I named the other Typhoon. We’ve had them ever since.

After a few years of experience in turtle care, we heard from a friend that someone she knew had a turtle he wanted to “get rid of”. He’d had this turtle for a few years and was sick of taking care of her. We asked them to bring her to our apartment so we could see what condition she was in. Aside from a bad case of conjunctivitis, she was in really good shape. We said yes almost immediately. We got her in a proper setup over the next few days, treated her eyes with medicated eye drops, and after a couples of weeks she was fine. We named her Sadie.

Hurricane is a standard red eared slider. Her shell is about 7 inches long now. She doesn’t like being held, pet, or any contact with us unless it involves being fed in the early morning. If we pick her up, she starts scratching and snapping and even hisses. Hurricane cannot be handled like a typical pet at all. When I have to move her to and from her tank, I have to be quick to avoid being bitten or scratched.

Typhoon is special. She is half red eared slider, and half common map turtle. She shell is 8 inches long. Map turtles are VERY different from sliders. Maps are spunky, assertive and very sensitive to their environments and how they are treated. I think of them as the most “emotional” of all aquatic species. Typhoon is pretty chill with just about anyone, adult or child. I’ve introduced her to kids, and plan to keep training her so that she can actually work with kids in an educational setting in the future. I can pick her up and hold her, rock her side to side, give her chin rubs and she’s totally cool with it.

Typhoon and Hurricane share a 55 gallon tank. A while back, Hurricane used to be very aggressive toward Typhoon, and seriously injured her chin. I knew well before that incident that aquatic turtles DO NOT like to live in groups. By some miracle these two since then have managed to sort out their differences. I do not condone putting aquatic turtles together, even hybrids, because the likelihood of aggression is too high to risk it. Aquatic turtles can seriously hurt each other, and captives have been known to kill each other. I assure you, I am moving into my own apartment later on this year, and these two will be separated.

Our theory is that the guy who had Sadie before us, took her from the wild. We live in CT, and taking a red eared slider from the wild is actually okay, because they are invasive here, and do a huge amount of damage to native wildlife and foliage. However, I also caution you who reads this – don’t take a red eared slider from the CT wilderness if you aren’t prepared to care for it. Sadie likes my mom and sits in her lap, but is very aggressive toward everyone else. Part of this is due to her size and age. Her shell is almost 11 inches long, and she is approximately 20 years old. In 2012, Sadie became gravid, which means she was carrying unfertilized eggs. All of my attempts at nesting boxes, attempts at getting her to lay those eggs outside, failed. We brought her to the vet to be induced. She bit the vet when he tried to give her the shot. My mom held Sadie by the rear-end of her shell, I put a popsicle stick in her mouth, and the vet quickly stuck the needle in her before she could get away. She laid one egg. We brought her back the next day for a second shot. The vet techs told us not to come in with them, despite us insisting that we should. 15 minutes later, one vet tech emerged with Sadie wrapped in a towel and she was as pale as a ghost. And Sadie is looking at us like nothing had happened. That vet tech practically shoved Sadie at us, and told us about what a nightmare it was to give ONE SHOT to our turtle. We were told that if she didn’t lay any eggs after this, not to bring her back and just let her do it in her aquarium. That’s what Sadie ended up doing. She laid the 11 remaining eggs underneath her basking dock. After that experience, we CANNOT put our hands in Sadie’s tank, because she will attack us. That tank is her nest, her territory, and she will defend it ferociously. In the morning when we feed her, she launches herself out of the water and bites the first thing she can get her mouth around. I am not exaggerating, turtles can launch themselves out of water similar to what alligators and crocodiles do. On a side note, every since the day we got Sadie, she’s been extremely close with our Egyptian mau mix, Spike. We let Sadie walk around the apartment and Spike follows her everywhere. Spike is the only living thing that Sadie has never acted aggressive toward.

Not all turtles are like this. Most people end up with sliders like Hurricane, that are very active, and don’t like to be handled. There are a few rare ones like Typhoon that genuinely enjoy contact with people. None of the people I know who have turtles have ever been shocked at Sadie’s aggression.

I genuinely enjoy caring for turtles, because they are fascinating animals. People tend to think reptiles in general are lazy, unintelligent and slow-moving. Watch my turtles dash across my living room floor, take apart their filters and plot their escape routes from their aquariums, and you’ll stop thinking they are dumb and lazy. Aquatics have full color vision, they can see a good distance and they even have personal likes and dislikes of various colors. Typhoon is attracted to yellow and acts aggressive toward anything pink. Hurricane like red and green, and doesn’t care either way about any other colors. Sadie likes dull, neutral colors, and tends to act aggressive toward anything vibrant. There’s no pattern to this, because I’ve heard stories about turtles that were obsessed, genuinely obsessed with colors like blue and orange. After all my years with turtles, I attribute this to personal taste, and I see nothing that indicates it’s an evolutionary advantage to have color preferences.

In short, I’ve learned so much about them that I could write a book about aquatic turtle care. I won’t spend my time doing it, but I could do it if I wanted to. I won’t go as far as to recommend turtles, or say they are “good” pets. I will say that they work for some people, and don’t work for others. Do your research about the species you want, take the time to spend a few extra dollars on a good, appropriate setup and don’t forget to ask questions. A good place to start is http://www.redearslider.com, which is where I started. They gave me a good boost into turtle care, and then I took off on my own. My advice however, is that if you feel for even a second that you don’t want to take the time to spend the money on the right aquarium setup, and take the time to learn about aquatic turtles, then you should not get one.

Hypnotic Eyes

May 9, 2017 - Leave a Response

Chris and I didn’t get along perfectly. It would have been nice if things turned out differently, but one thing I’ve learned in my 30 years of life, is that the world throws a lot of things at us that we cannot change after they happen. All we can do is accept our mistakes, decide to do better, and then move on.

In 2010, I attended an event at Silver Sands Beach called “Hands Across the Sand.” I was introduced to Chris there. Right off the bat, he made me nervous. Everything he asked me about myself was normal – what art I liked, what my education was, what I did for a living… all the usual things you ask people when you first meet them. All of his body language, his tone of voice, it was all as normal as normal could be. But you see, he had this intense gaze that was like a knife just jabbing right into my chest and refusing to budge. And I have this problem where I can’t hold eye contact with people because it’s too uncomfortable and at times painful for me. No matter how much I wanted to, I could not look away from Chris and I was frozen in place. This scared the hell out of me, but at the same time, I was fine with it.

Suddenly my mother needed help with something, so I had to end our conversation. I did not speak to Chris again for the rest of that event. I look back on that now and wonder to myself, what if I had spoken to him again? Would we have become acquaintances, or even friends? Would the dynamic between him and I, have been totally different, or was it doomed to fail all along?

Fast forward to 2012, when my mom and I opened our own thrift store. While we were cleaning around the store’s front entrance, this guy came strolling up to us with a mild limp. He had a big smile and bright eyes, but more importantly, he was confident. He inquired about our store, and I admit we both immediately noticed his thick, deep voice. I didn’t care to ask why, because I had known this guy for all of 30 seconds and it wasn’t my business. Not to mention one of my uncles had the same kind of voice, and every time I saw him when I was a kid, he was in a bed or in a wheelchair. Eventually, my mom asked this guy why he had his voice and his limp, and he explained he had recently been diagnosed with ALS, or what some people refer to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”. Sooner or later while the three of us were talking, he looked over at me and our eyes locked. A nervous feeling swept over me and I asked him, “Haven’t I met you before?” He had no recollection of who I was, and I didn’t immediately remember ever meeting him in the past. Our conversation pretty much ended there with him introducing himself as Chris, telling us his apartment was right above our store, and that if we needed anything we could ask him. Like I said before, confident.

I never told him this but right then and there he left me with not only a feeling of nervousness but also feeling happy to have met him.

So I ask myself again, if I had become friends with Chris back in 2010, how devastated would I have been in 2012 when he was diagnosed? There’s a part of me that believes for my own sake, it was better for me not to have had any sort of bond with him before then. But another part of wishes I had had that bond, because then maybe I could have understood better and been more comforting toward him than I was.

I think about two moments in particular that are so memorable for me, for many reasons. The first is when Chris needed help reattaching the door to his medicine cabinet. Of course I’m dexterously challenged in my own way, but I was glad to help. When I walked into his apartment with him, one of his cats was there staring at me. He warned me that she didn’t like people but I called her over to me, and she let me pet her. Chris gave me a big speech about how strange this was because this cat only liked him, and as soon as he finished talking, she turned around and swatted me. He smiled for a moment and I think he might have been jealous. That’s okay, because we cat lovers are like that. In any case, Chris showed me to the bathroom, and after swearing up a storm in there for a good 15 minutes, I was able to get the door reattached. I remember Chris wanting to assist, but knowing that he wasn’t able to, even though he was standing there and would seem “able-bodied” to anyone who didn’t know him. That’s the crushing reality of ALS – it takes your body but leaves your mind intact. After that ordeal, we went outside and chatted for a while. What was interesting was he asked almost the exact same questions he had the first time we had met, and I probably gave him the exact same answers. I recall him smiling at me when I talked about my art and my education, and even though in that moment I still didn’t remember meeting him the first time, I think he may have remembered me. Now, I mentioned before that making eye contact is difficult for me. But having any kind of physical contact with people, even shaking hands, is difficult for me too. Chris thanked me for helping him and reached out to give me a hug. I didn’t feel like going into my speech about why I don’t hug people, so I let the hug happen. That was the first time in my life that I had hugged someone, and it felt normal. Here’s a man who had a terminal illness, and yet he had the power to hug me and make me feel normal. I challenge you to find another soul who can do the same thing.

My mom has a condition called multiple sclerosis, so she had an extra walking cane lying around, and asked me to bring it to Chris because he had mentioned having more difficulty with walking. Chris was in a frantic, agitated mood. He had been working on a huge drawing, but when it came to the finer details, he didn’t have the fine motor function to draw them. After trying to find his glue-gun to no avail so we could rig together a tool for him to use to make things easier, we got on the subject of the drawing itself. The drawing was morbid, but my perception of death is not the same as the average population, so my reaction to it was positive. Chris just smiled and put up with me. We had known each other for a couple of months up to this point, so I think he was getting a sense of the sort of person I am. He then mentioned that he had to get ready for a doctor appointment, and mentioned he was nervous. I asked why, and he said it was because he had to have blood drawn. I told him I understood because of my issue with my arms, and how I don’t like it when people touch my arms because I’m afraid I’ll lose them. He told me that one thing about having ALS that frightened him was losing the use of his arms. I had a similar conversation with my mom after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I told Chris something like what I told her, but speaking to him and what he was going through: “I want you to know that no matter what people say to you, that there are many people who have lived with ALS for a long time and have lived real lives. This does not define you. No matter what happens, you will always be Chris.” He cried and so did I.

I don’t want to talk about the negative things. Maybe far off in the future I will write about why Chris and I didn’t always get along and why we had to stop being friends. But right now, I just cannot do that. His friends and family are grieving, I am grieving. Yes, I stopped talking to him over 3 years ago, and still, I grieve. I grieve because despite all that happened, I think of his art and how alive it is. He was more than talented, he had a way of drawing and painting that could suck us in and never let us go. Just like his eyes, he could hypnotize us with his art. He had a profound effect on me during the time I was friends with him, and I will always cherish that. Not because of anything he did for me, but because of what made him who he was. One important lesson I have learned from life, is that the body can die, but what a person does for you will remain forever.

The Real Reason People Voted for Donald Trump

January 17, 2017 - Leave a Response

I have never been good at putting myself in someone else’s shoes, thinking in more than one perspective, seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, whatever you want to call it… Despite that, once I ask the right questions, and give things a lot of thought, I am eventually able to understand why someone feels the way they feel, and makes the choices they make. However, I just don’t understand why people chose to vote for Donald Trump, or why they felt he was a better option than Hilary Clinton.

I have heard the “reasons”. Both on and off news media, I swear to you I have heard the reasons. The reasons just don’t make any sense, even when they come from someone who seems like a sensible person. From the most primitive reasons, like “to make America great again” and no explanation afterward, to reasons like changing the way corporations run America with a whole lot of explanation. At the end of it all, no matter how much I listen, I always come back to the same thought: How can you vote for someone who is so blatantly racist?

How can you hear Trump talk about building a wall to keep Mexicans from entering the United States, say Mexicans are rapists (and turn around and say sexually inappropriate things about his own daughter and admit to sexually assaulting women), be totally okay with being endorsed by the KKK, and still vote for someone like him? How can you hear those things and not be sickened and disgusted by them? I refuse to believe that people who do not support racism and racist behavior, would vote for someone like Trump. Supporting the American people of all colors, wanting people of all colors to have equal opportunities and fair treatment, is a sensible and empathetic way to think. It’s not the kind of thought process that leads to someone saying, “I support all Americans so I want to vote for Trump who wants to keep an entire ethnicity out of this country”.

The only logical conclusion I can make is that decent Americans who voted for Trump are just painfully ignorant (which is likely a VERY teeny tiny percentage, like maybe 0.000000000000001%), or these people who voted for Trump only care about specific groups of people in America, but not Americans as a whole. These people have no empathy or feelings toward the humans who live in this country, because how could they? How could they care about other people when Trump so clearly, CLEARLY demonstrates that he does not care about other people.

And yes, I have heard all of the reasons why people voted for Trump because they didn’t like Hillary Clinton. Yes, the woman who could have been the first female President. The woman who talked about rights for ALL PEOPLE on a regular basis. The woman who talked about raising the minimum wage, taking steps to halt corporate greed, and did so honestly and sensibly. The woman who cared about the reproductive rights of women. The human being who obviously, despite some of her own imperfections and history as a politician, demonstrated a genuine empathy for the American people. All the people, even those who are apathetic and voted for Trump (Note: When she called Trump supporters a basket of deplorables, she was scolding their behavior). There is only one reason why someone would choose to vote for Trump instead of Clinton.

You don’t care about the American people.

The Enderman is a Racist “Joke”

May 31, 2016 - Leave a Response

Minecraft is one of the most widely known and most played games of today. There are many things about Minecraft that make it an enjoyable game, such as the creativity and seemingly limitless possibles. However, there is one aspect of the game that can make a lot of people very uncomfortable.

In the version of Minecraft known as “Beta 1.8”, Notch, the game’s creator, added a character called the “Enderman”. Based on a conversation on a website called Reddit, many people thought that the Enderman was based on an internet joke/creepy pasta known as “Slenderman”. It makes sense, since Slenderman is a lanky, white male who is dressed in a black tuxedo, and the Enderman is a black color. But if you look deeper into the Enderman’s meaning, there’s much more to it than that.

First off, the Enderman is a tall, lanky character. And it’s black. So we’re already veering into the “black people are really tall” stereotype. That’s strike one.

Next up, let’s talk about the two objects which were added in Beta 1.8, the ‘cooked chicken’, and the ‘melon’. The stereotype that black people like fried chicken has existed in the deep South, and other parts of the United States for a long time. During the Jim Crow era, numerous advertisements were made of dark skinned children with big, red lips eating watermelon and being giddy about doing it. Now, I’m sure people will try the argument that Notch is Swedish, and therefore these stereotypes don’t apply. Well, word travels, especially since the dawn of the internet. That’s a very big strike two.

But I’m not done here. During gameplay, Endermen will not go into water. If they do, they are injured by it. Black people being unable to swim isn’t a stereotype, it’s a fact. During the slavery era, slaves were not allowed to swim, for fear they would escape. Since slavery existed for many generations, the children of the first slaves, and their children after them, and so on, never learned how to swim. So unfortunately, the reality that many black people cannot swim still carries on today. This is the third strike.

All of these things are pretty awful. And the problems with the Endermen keep going. If you look an Enderman in the eyes, it will run at you, screaming bloody murder, and try to kill you. I shouldn’t have to explain this, but that is the well known “angry black people” stereotype. And Endermen make a lot of noise, constantly. They are basically very loud characters.

Endermen also pick up blocks during gameplay. When they pick up a random dirt block off of some mountain, it just seems like they are effecting the environment. But when they take a block off of something you built, that’s stealing from you. All Endermen can, and will, do this. I guess Notch thinks all black people are thieves and/or commit crimes.

It’s pretty darn apparent what Notch was trying to say about an entire group of people. And I don’t know what angers me more, the fact that he did this, or the fact that Notch is no longer involved in the game’s development, but Mojang and Microsoft have allowed this to go on. How many blind eyes are going to be turned before people come to the realization that this is not acceptable?

I’m certain some people will question why I continue playing Minecraft. I don’t want to boycott the game, and I don’t think anyone should. I want Mojang to take responsibility for their actions, and fix the problem. Change the look and the behavior of the Endermen so that they don’t resemble black people, and perpetuate such gross stereotypes.

If I had know that the Enderman was in the game, and how it behaved, I never would have bought it. I could have lived my life without Minecraft, no matter how fun it is to play. It is my own fault for not doing more research before making that purchase, but I can’t undo it.

I want respect. I want Mojang to acknowledge that myself, and people who look like me, and are darker skinned than me, are human beings with feelings. I want them to acknowledge that these things, regardless of their intentions, are harmful and cruel. It is 2016, and it is about time Mojang and the rest of the Minecraft community wake up. Stop adding cute polar bears and other random, pointless changes to the game, and fix the problem that makes Minecraft nearly impossible for me to play because of how hurtful it is.

Let’s Have a Conversation on Youtube

April 1, 2016 - 2 Responses

One thing that most of my friends know about me, is that I am not a big fan of technology. To be more specific, I have a huge problem with these “smart” devices, such as tablets, phones, and basically anything with those ridiculous touchscreens on them. The reason I despise these things is because they are used by people for the sake of being used. We don’t actually do anything unique, educational or thought-provoking with these devices. We binge on random bits of information, and then we rapidly move on to the next thing because we can’t get enough. It’s like our brains are being trained to think in hyperdrive – if a webpage takes more than a few seconds to load, we start getting agitated. Don’t believe me? Watch someone try to load an app on any smartphone, and observe their bouncing knee, squirming or fidgeting in their seat, and repeatedly banging their thumb on the phone’s screen. And this all can happen within a span of 30 seconds or less.

The only terrible experience I have had on Youtube, is that people only stay subscribed to my channel for a few days. It took me forever to figure out why this was happening, because Youtube’s analytics function won’t tell you what you really need to know. My audience retention percentiles are all over the place. My comments, likes and dislikes, watch times and views are all over the place, too. So I can’t get a clear reading from this information, especially since the way traffic comes onto my channel is random. My videos only get views if someone happens to find them amongst the millions of other videos on the site.

So why do people unsubscribe? Most popular gaming channels upload one or two videos a day. If a Youtuber, even popular ones like Captainsparklez, Markiplier and ihascupquake, doesn’t upload for a day, they lose subscribers. Even when they are sick, experiencing issues with their life and/or family, they still have to upload. If they don’t, they risk their channel receiving some very heavy complaints and negative feedback. Granted, the channels I mentioned can afford to lose subscribers, because they have millions. I have, as of today, 166 subscribers. So if I lose one, it is a huge blow to my channel.

Sometimes, I cannot upload. It’s usually because of my internet connection being really obnoxious, and I have very little power to fix it. Other reasons include the fact that I am a full time student, and I work part time in addition to my studies. So I have a very narrow window during my day in which I can record. Combine that with classwork, household chores, and my awfully noisy neighbors. So, even though I try very hard to upload at least one video every day, sometimes I can’t. If I have a choice between a video with kids screaming in the background and blaring music (that could get me a copyright violation), or a good quality video, guess which I will choose?

I’m sure someone is going to say to me that because of my lifestyle, that maybe Youtube isn’t a good idea. I’m not going to be one of those Youtubers who quit their job, dropped out of school and gave up a normal life to “pursue” Youtube. That’s not why I started my channel, just to get popular and bask in my own glory. I started my channel for speech therapy. I have a language impairment, and difficulty with speaking and performing tasks at the same time. Recording my videos has helped me tackle that problem. I’m also a mega-extrovert, so doing nothing else with my life but making videos, doesn’t work for me. It’s not healthy for my brain, and it can make me depressed. Being so extroverted is also why I make videos, so that I can talk to people.

I use games as a way to contemplate many things in my life, my community, world issues, politics, and just talk about my day. I like people to respond to what I talk about in the comment section, and then we can have a discussion about what they think and what I think. I don’t want people to just watch my videos and move on, I want them to stop, think about it, share an idea, then come back for more the next day. I want people to slow down and be patient. These goofball “smart” devices have robbed people of their ability to be in the moment, without them realizing it.

You should never subscribe to someone’s channel if you aren’t planning on sticking around for more than a few days. That gives the person who runs the channel false hope, especially if their channel has 166 subscribers, like mine. If you subscribe you my channel, you have to plan to be there, show support and engage in the content I provide, when I provide. You have to be patient and respectful of my channel’s community. You have to understand that my name is not theartbook35, and it’s actually Alexandra. There is a human being running this channel, and you subscribe to the person, not the webpage. So instead of being data hungry mindless zombies, let’s have a conversation on Youtube.