Friday, January 21, 2011

Need a New Start, continued

So I interrupted my last post because the dryer was going off and I was hungry. I meant to write more later in the evening but instead found myself working on the re-working of my Music Land Maestress story (the re-working I came up with when I realized a Christian may be able to write about magic - though people disagree on that - but probably shouldn't write about reincarnation). Today I slept in (having stayed up a bit too late again) and then ordered my textbooks. Then I went out to try to get this one textbook they only have at the Discount Campus Books place across from school, only to learn they did not have it. I also got my student ID validated, asked admissions what I needed to do to crash a class, and got my bus pass for February (the super-discounted ones go fast, so I decided not to wait till next week when school starts). I also need to order the book for the one web design class I've gotten into so far, Flash 1. I forgot to do that this morning.

Ok just did that. It was cheaper on Amazon than at the school bookstore, almost $20 off the new price. Not bad. Plus since I have Amazon Student, I get a free year of Amazon Prime, which allows me to have free two-day shipping. Yay.

So anyway, where was I? Oh yeah about my walk with God.

So the fourth thing was that I don't feel close to God. I like to call this the "Gummiberry Juice Dilemma," after an old episode of the kids' show Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears  that I remember. In that, the character's dilemma is that she has the recipe for Gummiberry Juice, a juice that allows the Gummi Bears to bounce very high for a short time, in her head but needs to have it in her head AND her heart to make it the way her grandmother makes it. Only once she has it in both places is she able to make the juice successfully. In my case, I have all this knowledge about God in my head, but my heart, on the other hand, is lacking something. They always say "Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship" and it's the heart-relationship thing I don't seem to have much, if any, of. I must've once because when I was a kid, I feel like I was much closer to God. Then again, I was more trusting then as well. I know I'm definitely less trusting now.

The fifth thing is somewhat related - I'm seriously lacking in Christian friends around me at the moment, thanks to not going to mid-week groups. I haven't met really any Christians at school other than the Chi Alpha people, and the girl in charge of that is one of those uber-happy people that rub me the wrong way. I don't know any Christians at work, and to be honest, I'm not very open about it at work. The closest thing I know is my friend and coworker Adam, who's a Reform Jew and not, it seems, very religious.

If anyone is even reading this, answer this question for me. Is it ok to not be one of those Christians who tries to witness to everyone they see, wants to pray with you about every little thing, and gets a little too over-happy when praising God for the good things? I hope so, because I can't see myself as one of those people, and frankly those sorts of Christians turn me off. If I ever were to witness to somebody (an opportunity which has not presented itself yet), I think I'd be more the "let me sit down and reason with you" type. Or, to borrow an analogy from one of my pastors, the type who takes you to Starbucks to have a chat over lattes (not that I would ever do that). Of course, we're supposed to share the gospel with everyone - as Christians, that's nonnegotiable. But the Bible also says to be prepared to defend the gospel when people ask. I don't think we're supposed to go up to strangers and beat them over the head with the Bible if they don't want us to. They'd think we're weirdos. Besides, most people have some inkling of what Christianity is and who God is and stuff thanks to living in this country - a survey project I did with a group in 12th grade where we asked people a few of the "big life questions" (where do you think you'll go when you die?, etc) more or less showed me that. (Overseas missionary situations, obviously, might be a little different).

The saying "Actions speak louder than words" applies here I think. Christ said that it is by us loving each other that people will know we're his disciples. He also asked in one of his final prayers (the one in John 17, sometimes called the "High Priestly Prayer") that his followers be united, an action. Also, Paul tells Timothy, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young. But set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12), a verse that seems to emphasize action. We have to earn the right to be heard by someone, right?

Maybe I'm just futilely trying to excuse my own inability to witness. It's not that I'm unwilling - it wouldn't matter if I was; we're commanded as Christians to do it. I just don't know how to go about it, and growing up in a sheltered Christian environment, I didn't really have practice. Yet I must have some capacity for it, because all Christians do, and also because I took a spiritual gifts test and my #2 gift (after Knowledge) was Missionary.

I think deep down this is why I hope to be able to witness through my writing, because I don't handle social situations well face-to-face and tend to ramble when I talk. But, as the CWCW so pointedly noticed, my current novel is a bit too straightforward in giving the message. To be honest, I was even a bit turned off by a book called Spirit Warrior, written by a local author, because its message of Christianity seemed too blatantly spelled out, to the point that it stuck out from the story instead of being integrated into it, much the way moral lessons were in old literature that suffered from the "Dear Reader" syndrome. (I did keep the book, btw, mainly because it's autographed by the author). Books like Kerry Nietz's Darktrench Trilogy, on the other hand, integrates a Christian message into the story that develops gradually in the consciousness of the not-quite-human protagonist, a character brought up in a futuristic Earth enveloped in the rule of strict Islamic law. Much more subtle case there.

Speaking of my novel, I'm seriously thinking of not getting it critiqued in the CWCW anymore. I've realized that at the rate that is going, along with the page limit on what we can share, my CSUSM career will be over before we've finished critiquing half of it. Plus, after the negative reaction to the strongly Christian chapter mentioned above, I realized that perhaps this isn't the best audience for this work (though they do point out good things in terms of general writing, such as awkward sentences or paragraphs). I'm going to try it out on the online critique group for the San Diego Christian Writers Guild instead, as well as a group called Anamalous Sandbox, run by a guy from the Anomaly, a Christian speculative fiction forum I'm a part of. It may be a while before I do this, because I'm almost done with the first draft, and once I finish it, I want to put it away and forget about it for a while before I revise. (I still need to find a good place to hide it).

I also need a new start in terms of YouTube video and website making. I hope that I can get into the Photoshop class I put myself on the waitlist for; I managed to get into the Flash class (which I was also waitlisted for) because the teacher sent me a permission number. Learning Photoshop and Flash will greatly enhance my capabilities as a designer. Having worked my way through a basic-to-intermediate-level book on CSS, I want to learn advanced CSS (if it makes sense to do so) as well as the CSS3 additions, and then after that PHP. Those are goals for this year, late resolutions if you will.

As for YouTube video making, I haven't been doing it consistently for the last couple years. I'm going to finish the Dark Mercury Fandub Project because that project is nearly 4 years old and needs to be put to bed so it will stop haunting me. (It doesn't help that YouTube muted or deleted all the parts, resulting in me having to remake the whole series). I need to figure out exactly what kind of video maker I am. Do I really want to be a vlogger, or do I just want the popularity (and relative safety from getting pegged for unintentional copyright infringement)? To be honest, I attempted vlogging about my writing, using my cell phone for the videotaping, and I found myself with very little to say and what I did say seemed very scripted.

I have a better idea of what to do with my backup/solo fandub channel. While I want to keep doing SeraMyu songdubs as I have been doing, I'm also going to try to do more non-song fandubs, since I've noticed when looking at my videos by "most watched" that my top two most watched videos are my two non-song fandubs (my French fandub of "Garage Kids," the pilot for Code Lyoko, and my fandub of a scene from Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne). I still want to do the fandub of Sailor Moon episode 46 that someone requested; I need to find the person who made me the extended "Carry On" for that because I've lost the mp3 for it. (Ok, just found him and sent him a PM through YouTube. Yay!). For those who don't know what I'm talking about, episode 46 of Sailor Moon features the final battle between the Sailor Senshi and their enemy Queen Beryl. In the original Japanese episode, a full version of the show's theme song "Moonlight Densetsu" played from the time Serenity opens her eyes to the time Beryl is destroyed. In the English dub version of this episode (which was extremely edited down), a much shorter song called "Carry On" was used instead. While I love "Moonlight Densetsu," "Carry On" is my favorite English dub song from Sailor Moon and so I wanted to use it instead, except that it's too short to cover the original scene. So I put out a call for someone to help me out with an extended version, and a YouTube user named codeblackhayate answered the call.

His video with the mix is still up. Check it out!

I feel better now having blogged about all this. Now it's late so I better get to bed because I have work tomorrow. Good night!

Oh, P.S. lately I've been getting into a series called Pretty Cure or Precure, watching the transformations and stuff like crazy on YouTube. And their newest series (called Suite Precure and due to start airing in early February) has music as its theme, which is awesome since I'm writing my own series about music-based magical girls right now. I don't know how I'm going to actually watch it as it airs, though, unless someone is fansubbing it. We'll see. Not much is known about it at this point; the only video we've seen of the new Precures is supposedly in trailers for the new Precure DX movie, due out in March. This is the best video I could find that show what the new Precures look like:

This video, which I just found tonight, shows all the transformations from Precure seasons two (Futari wa Pretty Cure Max Heart) through seven (the most recent season, HeartCatch Precure). The "Yes Precure 5" one (the one shown in the shot in the video window below) remind me of Tokyo Mew Mew with how they say "Metamorphose."

Ok I really need to go to bed now. Bye!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Need a New Start

I can't believe I haven't posted since Christmas. It's probably because right after Christmas I was preparing to go to ALA, and since then I've just been working a lot. This is the first day off I've had after 8 days straight of working.

Not much to say about ALA. Nobody recognized my cosplay. I told people it was fun and it was, but in many ways it was just like most large social gatherings I go to - I didn't know anybody, nobody knew me, and I was more concerned about what I wanted to do than actually trying to meet people (which had been a goal of mine for that con). The only person I had any sort of long conversation with was Gina Biggs, and that was because I was interviewing her.

Maybe I'm just in a bad mood - I am a bit tired and I'm getting over being sick (I think I caught whatever bug is going around work, because a lot of people at work are sick). But the con just didn't meet my expectations. There were a lot more negatives than positives. I wrote a long feedback post about this on the ALA forum at already so I'd rather not go into it here.

I considered going to Anime Conji, a con they were promoting at ALA, which happens here in San Diego at the end of March. But I'm just not feeling it. The more I write about ALA the less I want to go to an anime con again, at the very least for a while. I may feel differently later. I'm still going to go to Comic-Con as usual, and probably the writers' conference again in September if, like last year, lack of money doesn't prevent me. But that may be it for me this year.

I am at, like a lot of people this time of year, in a state of contemplation about my life. Even more so I think for me because, assuming I get into this one class I still need to graduate that I'm waitlisted on, I'll be graduating from CSUSM this semester. I still have classes to take for my web design certificate (because I started that late and also wasn't able to take any classes for it last fall) but, Lord willing, I can be done with that by next spring - even sooner if I take a class or two this summer. (That depends on availability and on whether I'll want a break from school after this semester, which I probably will). I wonder if there's a way to get that certificate but not have to go through a second Mira Costa graduation ceremony (I went through one for my A.A. already). I'll have to ask.

Speaking of computers, I just watched The Social Network, a.k.a. the movie they made about how Facebook was founded. They portray Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook's founder) as kind of a jerk and portray him as having stolen the idea for Facebook from these three guys who'd approached him about creating a site called HarvardConnection. The frame for the film is Zuckerberg's depositions for the two lawsuits filed against him in regards to Facebook - the lawsuit filed against him in 2004 by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss and Divya Narenda for stealing their website idea and the lawsuit filed against him in 2005 by Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg's best friend who co-founded Facebook with him and Zuckerberg's roommate Dustin Moskovitz, after Zuckerberg diminished Saverin's stock holdings in Facebook to less than 1% as well as his influence in the company, which it seems largely went instead to Facebook's main investors, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Napster co-founder Sean Parker. The movie was all right but I had trouble believing that things were not overdramatized. I will say, though, the acting was good. Justin Timberlake, who I've never seen before in a movie (that I remember), does a good job playing Sean Parker.

At any rate, I'm planning to watch the other movie I got from Redbox - Ramona & Beezus - with my mom tonight because she really wanted to see it. So for now I'm just hanging out at home. I figured that since I'm getting over being sick I should rest a little. Tomorrow though I will probably go out. I'm going to order my textbooks tomorrow also as I have to wait till I get paid to order them, because my bank won't let me transfer money from my savings to my checking right now, since I seem to have reached the limit on how many transfers you can do between share accounts in a certain amount of time (probably a month). I had to transfer money from my line of credit just to give me a cushion when I went to enroll in the Flash class I was waitlisted for after the teacher sent me a permission number (Mira Costa requires that you pay the same day you enroll), and I really don't want to have to do that again.

(Now I owe more money toward my line of credit because it transferred money to cover my tithe, which automatically comes out of my account. Shoot).

So anyway, as I was saying, I'm in a state of contemplation about my life. And I do not like my life. I'm 26 years old and I live with my parents. I don't have my own place or my own car - I don't even have a driver's license. (And getting my license was a goal of mine for this winter break - which due to lack of money and having to work so much failed miserably). I'm working at a grocery store and I'm been in college since 2003 (almost EIGHT years) just trying to get a B.A. Some people spend 8 years trying to get a master's or become a doctor. Online, I am involved in a gazillion and one things and popular at none of them, which for some stupid reason really bothers me. It's like I can't feel like something I'm doing is worthwhile unless I get some recognition for it. And in my head I know that that is just the stupidest thing ever! Life is not about being popular, gosh dang it. Life is about leaving a legacy - doing something that matters for eternity. And although I know that, I have a hard time getting myself to believe it.

I think I was always wanting to be accepted one way or another, but when I was younger it didn't seem like such an issue. I think in high school I was okay with my small group of friends and with being different. Ok granted I did want more friends definitely. But I wasn't obsessed with the idea, as I seem to be now. What happened?

I think a lot of things happened. That teenage identity crisis that apparently skipped me in high school hit me in my college years. Finding out about my Asperger's didn't help; it was just something else I had to figure out how to deal with in my still emerging identity. When I started at Stater Brothers in 2007, my work schedule became so unpredictable that it was hard to plan anything, and my church attendance began to become less regular as I was forced to accomodate my work schedule, which sometimes required me to work on Sundays. After the first few months at Stater Brothers, I'd pretty much given up going to mid-week group, since schedule-wise it wasn't working too well for me or my parents (my chauffeurs to this group). I was kinda getting burned out with the college group anyway now that most of my friends had moved on. While I haven't given up on Christianity, I think it's become less and less dynamic by the year. I got burned out by InterVarsity and am not sure about Chi Alpha, the new Christian group I've only had the chance to go to once. InterVarsity seemed to be more about witnessing (not a strong point for me) than about strengthening those who were already Christian, and Chi Alpha seems to be more about hanging out then getting into the Bible (though they do have speakers, and I haven't been there when they had one).

But I know that God exists, and I believe that, and that is a big part of faith in God - as Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (ESV). And seeing the recent change in my brother since he got involved with Campus Crusade for Christ up at his school in San Luis Obispo makes me see that people can change, even after years of not really living for God. If he can change, I can change.

I want to change, but I hardly know where to begin. So many things are wrong with my Christian walk. For one, I'm not witnessing, nor have I ever to anyone. Sadly, I'm not one of those on-fire Christians who tries to talk about God to everyone I see or relate every topic to God. In fact, people who relate everything to God annoy me as much as people who are uber-happy do, maybe because they are often also uber-happy. I mean, there is nothing wrong with being really happy and joyous about being a Christian - more power to you if you are. You've got something I sure as heck don't have. But people who are just TOO happy annoy me, I think because they don't seem real.

Secondly, I have next to no prayer life, and I don't really know what is the best way to pray. Almost all the time when I pray I feel like I'm talking to the ceiling.

Thirdly, I don't feel like I'm getting much from the Bible, other than the occasional moment of insight where a verse stands out. I'm still stuck on the Old Testament and how much of it applies to us. In a recent sermon from North Coast that I listened to via podcast, they said that the Old Testament laws don't apply to Christians unless they're repeated in the New Testament. They're meant to show us we can't measure up to God's standards and thus we need a Savior. I guess that makes sense, but why am I still stuck then on the idea that I must somehow apply the laws in Leviticus or the genealogies in 1 Chronicles to my life?

On the other hand, there are some great stories in the Old Testament that have lessons for us today, from the patriarchs all the way through. I've always found great insight from the Psalms and also Proverbs to a lesser extent. In the last few months, as I was finishing up the "Read-the-Bible-in-a-Year" thing again in my ESV Bible, I found verses jumping out at me in some of the prophetic books - Isaiah particularly - in words written to be heard by people either in exile or about to be.

Right now I'm using this devotional I bought called Faithbook of Jesus. I'm not sure about it because it just dives right in, with nothing on how you're supposed to use it. So I'm confused. It gives you verses to read for each devotional, but they're often just a few verses, which makes me feel like I'm spending less time in my quiet time than I was when I was reading whole chapters of the Bible for my read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan.

Fourthly, I just am not feeling close to God at all. There is no deeper connection there, it's pretty much all mental, with maybe the basest level of non-mental connection. And it's sad.

Ok my laundry's beeped like five times, and I'm hungry. Maybe I should continue this later.