Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Makes Great Art?

As a filmmaker, its hard to come to terms with the fact that your audience will most definitely miss some of the purposeful details that you put in, and so you try to make each one glaringly obvious. But then, you make it too easy for your viewers; the flow of information is too slow. Sometimes in fact, people still don't get the picture. So, you must instead challenge your viewer to the brink of misunderstanding. You make your film such that the limit of transfer of information is not limited by the speed of the video but by the comprehension of the viewer. This allows for (brace for cliche) each person to interpret the message of the video for themselves. Ugh, glad that is over. 

And isn't that what great art does? Each time you re-watch the video, each time you re-read the book, each time you revisit the oil painting, each time you re-listen to the song, you have a new perspective of the art based on your emotional state and your new-found life experiences. You see something you didn't see before. The art is still relevant; it is still meaningful to you. 

That is why time-less literature like Romeo and JulietThe Scarlet Letter, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, authors like TolstoyHemingway, and Dumas, artists of the canvas like Da VinciMagritte, and van Gogh , musicians such as Luis Armstrong, The Beatles, and Beethoven , and last but not least the post-modern video creators for instance vlogbrothersTheThirdPew , and the gloriously amazing itsamemyleo (my personal favorite) have been and will be great works of art, great creators of art, that transcend generations of peoples and teach morals, tell stories, and express emotions that are relevant not to one demographic, but to the human that is in all of us and in each of us.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Why Is TFIOS A Good Story? Part 1


The reoccurring cigarette metaphor is a good example of storytelling because it shows how Augustus's opinion of himself progresses throughout the story. At first, he sees the cigarettes as something he has power over; this stems from his inherent desire to control his own destiny and to make something of himself. Later, when he tries and fails to buy the pack of cigarettes at the gas station and Hazel has to save him from his infected g-tube, it shows that Augustus no longer has power over the cigarettes because he can't even buy a pack without someone's help. It is symbolic of him deteriorating, weakening, and losing his grip on life. In his last days, Augustus hates his body for limiting his character which is contrary to the control and confidence he felt in the beginning. Nonetheless, he still fulfills his inner desire to leave a legacy by writing the sequel of An Imperial Affliction to Hazel. Though he doesn't end his life as the hero he imagined himself to be, he becomes a hero to Hazel and an inspiration as a person who loved with all his heart till the end. 

In addition, Hazel compares herself to a grenade because she believes that she will leave a deep emotional scar on her loved ones once she inevitably passes away. The metaphor of a grenade is a good example of storytelling because it highlights how death is so sudden (like the explosion of a grenade), how death affects everyone that is close to the person (like the people close to a grenade), and how death leaves emotional scars that take an extended period of time to heal (like a grenade leaves gashes and deeply penetrating wounds). However, because Hazel had a near fatal visit to the hospital but survived, she is able to see what is it like the be the grenade. At the same time, Gus is the first of the two to pass away, so Hazel also gets to feel like the person hit by the grenade. This is a fantastic example of storytelling since the reader is able to see both sides of the situation through the very intimate and personal perspective of Hazel.  


John Green makes extended use of foreshadowing which build suspense and keeps the reader guessing. This makes for an engaging story and builds emotional attachment. For instance, although this isn't mentioned in the movie, as Hazel and her mom come to pick up Augustus for their trip to Amsterdam, they overhear Gus yell, "BECAUSE IT IS MY LIFE, MOM. IT BELONGS TO ME." This outburst foreshadows that something isn't quite alright with Gus which turns out to be his cancer recurrence. 

In addition, during the actual flight to Amsterdam, Gus and Hazel make a conscientious effort to synchronize the playback of their movie, but Gus's movie starts a couple of seconds earlier which is both symbolic and foreshadowing of the fact that Gus will pass away sooner than Hazel.

These are just some of the examples of good storytelling techniques. I have personally reread the book three times, and each time, I notice more and more minute references and links between seemingly random additions to the story. That's what makes a good story a good story: it gets better each time you tell it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Isle of Man TT

The Isle of Man is a small, self-governing British Crown dependency on an island between Great Britain and Ireland. It is famously known for hosting the most prestigious motorcycle racing event in the world: annual "Isle of Man TT". 60.7 kilometers per lap. Speeds of up to 180 mph. And most bizarrely, the track is composed of normal public highways that have been temporarily close off. Enough chit-chat. Let's watch the footage. I recommend skipping to 2:30 for this first video.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Why I Study Computer Science

I would like to believe that I study Computer Science because not that many people do. I think to myself that if I can learn how this supernatural machine works then perhaps I can wield its power for the betterment of mankind. Perhaps I can build a solution that helps people do something they thought was impossible before. To borrow a phrase from "The Imitation Game": It's the people that no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.


Computer programming makes us more human. As paradoxical as this sounds, it's true. Code is written to help humans accomplish their mundane and repetitive tasks much quicker so that they can move on to more intelligent and creative undertakings. Likewise, coding is an inherently social experience. A single coder won't get very far towards making a worthy project but a team of coders can accomplish great things. Each person specializes in their own skills so that each aspect of a program is programmed to perfection to create a profound user experience. Code is written by people, for people! 

The AP Computer Science Class

AP Computer Science is a difficult class. The concepts are abstract and hard to grasp. There are no turning cogs, no visuals, no observable steps. Everything about Computer Science is encapsulated into a big black box. You type in some code, and the computer spits out a result. That's it. What goes on inside the computer as each line of code is evaluated is up to your imagination. But that's the beauty of it -- everything is up to your imagination. You can simulate anything you want in a computer. The extent of how much your code can make an impact is solely dependent on how far you will push yourself. No one can say it is easy, but no one can say it is impossible.


Because of the flexibility in code, problems can be solved in any way that you wish. There are no right answers. The efficiency of the code is measured by how effectively you can transcript your thought process into a program. There is a lot of freedom in how a programmer can accomplish his/her task, so this provokes an intuitive thought process. You don't have to copy someone else's way of solving problems like the steps to graphing a polynomial function. Instead, you already understand you own train of thought, so each successive step in solving the problem already makes sense to you since you made it up.

Resources! Boundless Resources! 

There are tons of places for sample code that you can examine and even use for yourself when you hit a roadblock. Moreover, there are often entire libraries and frameworks of pre-written code that can give you a leg-up on your project. This is just another testimony to how all code can be built upon to achieve bigger and better programs in a faster, simpler process.


Programming, coding, computer science, or black magic. Whatever you want to call it, it is taking the world by storm. There is literally not a single reason to resist learning to code. It is the way of the future. It is the inevitable destiny of our species. Code is written by people, for people! =)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to ALWAYS Be Productive 24/7


I, by no means, ably completely to the advice I am about to state, so take head that I am not judging nor blaming nor commanding any of you reading this blogpost, lest it be the most hypocritical series of characters known to science. In fact, so much hypocrisy in one document has been known to cause black holes in the space time continuum, so take all that is written below with a grain of salt, nay, a  bucket of salt, nay a Russian arctic oil tanker's worth of solid NaCl.  

Main Idea

The reason we are "unproductive" is that the activities we choose to do in our free time do not accumulate to a learned skill or lesson. I will attempt to explain this phenomenon with my own experience.

A Personal Experience

In 8th grade, I would come home everyday after school, plop onto my bed, and watch several episodes of a YouTube gamer. The videos were only 20 minutes long (which didn't seem as long back then but it's an eternity now). I would watch one, and since the related videos were just a tap of a finger away, I would watch 2 or 3 at a time. I did not have many of the games that the YouTuber had, so I felt that I was playing the game right along with him without actually having to buy the game. 

Eventually, I noticed that I was indeed spending A LOT of time watching videos. Then, I realized just how much time everyday I had spent to this fruitless activity. The videos didn't make me laugh; they didn't teach me anything; they didn't accumulate to anything.  In fact, I wasn't even making the YouTuber any money since I was watching on mobile. Thus, I resolved to unsubscribe from all of my gaming subscriptions (all 7 of them, and that's a lot). 

I found that my grades had improved, and I was getting a lot more sleep. I was performing better in sports thanks to the new found rest. However, most importantly, I felt good about myself because I was making much better use of my time.

Moral of the Story

Make your "restful" activities something you know is useful. It is very difficult to start because you have to work hard. And it is always easier to just sit back and absorb entertainment. But eventually, you will become invested in the thing you started, and you will want to do it more and more. You will be using the same principle of addiction in your own favor! Also, a good idea is to distance yourself from "poisonous" temptations as far as possible. Delete YouTube from your favorites bar. Block YouTube from even showing up in your browser. Put a limit on the time you spend on your social media. You know deep down inside that these things are not contributing anything positive to you; it's just the temptation on the surface and a little but of laziness that is blocking you from taking action to make yourself a better person.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Excerpt From My Short Story

I am writing a short story for the Creative Writing Club at my school. It's a SciFy narrative about a woman who is implanted with alien DNA that gives her telekinesis (the ability to move objects with her mind).

Here is a short excerpt:

I wake up in a solitary confinement cell with 13 gun barrels orbiting my head and a dark silhouette speaking through a muffled mic, "We come in peace. Teach us your ways and we might spare your life." A droplet of water trickles down my cheek. Not a tear. Saltwater from my waterboarding. I follow it down to the 3 inch thick,black, copper wires wrapped around my electric chair, the same chair that has my elastic underwear already melted to it from the voltage that they passed through me which coincidentally would have been able to power New York for a winter. The only reason I was still alive was that I, unbeknownst to my captors, had been telekinetically moving the electrons of my torture away from my heart so as to allow my pacemaker to continue to pump the 3 liters of blood that were left in my body. The other 2 were already staining the floor and chair.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Lost Art of Our Generation: The Conversation

While the answer isn't so black and white, one very useful skill while making/maintaining any kind of relationships with other people is to be a good listener.

What Good Are Good Listeners?

Well, the logical reasoning is quite simple:
  • 1. Everyone has an opinion about something. Sports. Favorite books. Legitimacy of unicorns. You name it. In addition,
  • 2. People have an inherent, innate need for self-expression. It is an aspect of human nature, so nobody is an exception. Therefore,
  • 3. The easiest way for people to express themselves is through voicing their opinions. However,
  • 4. There are more talkers than listeners in the world. Everybody wants to be heard, but no one wants to hear anyone else's thoughts. Hence,
  • 5. There is a low supply (and therefore high demand) of attentive listeners who will care about what the speaker has to say. Put simply
  • 6. Listening to what others have to say is a direct way of showing that you care about another person.
  • 7. I mean, who doesn't want a little extra care in their life. Right?

How Do I Start?

  • Start by allowing the other person to lead the conversation. 
  • Let their train of thought gain steam. The more the other person talks out loud, the more his/her ideas will make sense to the both of you. And people absolutely l.o.v.e. when they can get their point across to someone else. 
  • Ask intelligent and discussion-provoking questions. Try to see where the person might not have elaborated enough and ask them to explain that. 
  • Nod or give some other small signal of confirmation that you are following their thought process.
  • Stop them anytime you start to drift off. Stay focused and really try to understand the other person's point of view.

  • Ask them about anything they've said already talked about. They will just fell like they are repeating themselves and that you are not paying attention.
  • Change the subject too rapidly. That will make the conversation feel to broad and pointless.
  • Start talking about yourself. Keep the conversation about the other person. He/she will feel more appreciated if someone (you) would talk about them for a change.
  • Don't flatter the person too much. They will get bored eventually.
  • Don't neglect the person for too long. They will feel forgotten.

Don't Overdo It

Really, there are no solid, black lines. It honestly very much depends on the your specific case. Find a healthy balance between focus, connection, yourself, the other person, and topic of choice. You know better than I ever will what your conversation partner wants to hear, so go with your gut.

When To Quit

If you find that you cannot maintain a conversation with a person for more than 30 seconds or you just keep going back to the same old clichés, perhaps you could ease off a bit. If you can't find mutual interests, you will have a very frustrating experience trying to find a topic for conversation. "Let go" of the person for a while. His/her interests will change; your interests will change. With luck, eventually, your interests will cross paths, and everything will be a lot smoother. But, perhaps, your interests will never cross. In that case, it maybe just wasn't meant to be. There are still many, many interesting and engaging people out there that you don't even know exist. You just have to find them.


Try to imagine the other person complexly. Figure out your needs and his/her needs, and find a balance. Your gut (or better, your heart) will know what to do. And if your heart is wrong, your head will learn from the mistakes. =)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Arguably the Most Effective Rhetorical Device EVER

Rhetorical devices are elements of writing that authors use to convey a meaning or a feeling. Similes, repetition, imagery, and foreshadowing all fall into this category. However, in my opinion, there is one that stands out as the most powerful and potent rhetorical device: the metaphor.

What exactly is a metaphor?

Metaphors are pretty simple to understand. You compare one idea or concept to another idea/concept. Then, you explain the link between the two. An easy example is:  "You filthy pig! Clean your room. You do lay around in your slop and make not an oink to fix it!" Here, the person being spoken to is being compared to a filthy pig. Likewise, the person's room is being compared to a trough of slop (mud). Lastly, the fact that the person will do nothing is compared to not making 'an oink'.

So what's the big deal?

The unique thing about metaphors is that everybody likes metaphors because metaphors are the way the human brain thinks. People make connections to new experiences by comparing and relating them to past experiences in a symbolic way. Therefore, a particularly good metaphor allows the reader to tie in many known experiences to better understand exactly how the author is feeling. After all, no one will how the author feels better than the author (duh.) But, an author can make his/her experiences more real to the reader by including vividly symbolic metaphors that will help the reader imagine the situation more clearly.

And that is the purpose of language in itself:  To make our experiences more real to others and vice versa. 

One last example

Say, for instance, in The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini wants to portray how the character Amir feels that he and his father, Baba, do not have a strong father-son bond, but flying kites is one activity that they both enjoy.

One way to put this is: 

"Baba and I live together, but flying kites is the only thing we like to do together."

Whereas Hosseini puts it: 

"Baba and I lived in the same house, but in different spheres of existence. Kites were the one paper-thin slice of intersection between those spheres (Hosseini,52)."

As you can see, the difference is as wide and noticeable as the horizon of the Caribbean Sea. =)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Dating Advice, Friend Zone, and Friendship

Below is a video playlist with advice on how to handle relationships featuring John Green, Hank Green, and VSauce's Michael Stevens.

In reality, I just put as many popular search words as possible in the title to see how many people would actually visit my blog, and although this is sort of cheating =} it just goes to prove that the Internet is a wonderful place where people can look for information and people like me can help them find it. And, in my opinion, that is a beautiful thing.

P.S. The videos are actually truly helpful. It's like the 3 most teen-understanding YouTubers on Earth. It has to be good. =)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Paradox of Writing and Life Sandwiches

In my last post, I mentioned how you should write as much as possible. Now, I am going to argue against that point.

Write for yourself as much as you want. You will always be interested in what you have to say. Other people, however, are rarely interested in everything you have to say. And who can blame them? Nobody's interests match up 100%, and matches over 50% are basically soul mates. As a result, if you really want people to listen to you, make your writing count.

Choose Wisely

Writing that you share with others should be a near final draft version. You need time as well as trial and error to organize your thoughts in a coherent fashion that will be easy for other to understand. If your writing is just your first try or even just listed thoughts, no one will be able to derive meaning from your work, and the whole purpose of your endeavor goes down the drain. Likewise, people don't have the time of day to baby-sit you, correcting your work. That's what parents are for.


Ok, so far, I have been pretty aggressive of showcasing only your best work. That doesn't mean to wait years before texting back your friend's,"Wat up?". When you are fortunate enough to have someone's attention, that person expects a response from you: ASAP. And with modern social media apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine, people have access to lighting quick entertainment and information. Thus, the attention span of the average person has declined rapidly. If you can't give them what they want, someone else on the web will much faster. So, don't postpone. Strive for perfection, but settle for decency.

Life Sandwiches

I like to use the example of "life sandwiches". Think of everything that you share with the world as sandwiches. If you give people too many sandwiches, they will be full and discard any future sandwiches you give them, even if it's the best sandwich you ever made, because the quality-to-quantity ratio is just too small. On the other hand, if you don't feed your audience often enough, you will eventually give them the sandwich of the century, and they will take it in one bite...and then ask for more. You will argue that you just recently gave them the fruit of your endless labor, but they will shake their head and say, "Life goes on, and I need more sandwiches. Either I get my sandwiches from you, or I move on to someone else."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Write to Save Your Life


Writing about your experiences as they are happening to you is one of the most valuable tools you can master. 

The benefits of writing about current experiences are many, but to name a few:
  • helps you organize your thoughts
  • allows you to vividly describe memories
  • encourages you to share your thoughts and ideas
  • acts as a form of self-expression
  • gives you a perspective of yourself

I would like to elaborate on the last two.


Throughout your life, you will have to be able to describe your observations to other people. Communication: it's the key trait that separates humans from chimps. (No wonder essays are so important on the SAT). The better you express yourself to those surrounding you, the better you will convey your message. Writing, therefore, is more important now than in any point in human history, and practicing it is even more vital. 

Different emotions require different types of writing. A résumé requires quick, to-the-point information in as little text as possible. A poem to a lover, on the other hand, is prized for its attention to detail and its figurative language. Hence, you must practice all types of writing for all types of purposes. 

In most cases, however, you will be conveying information from your perspective: your observations. As such, you need to develop your own unique writing style that best formulates your thoughts and best associates with your character. You will find (and I noticed this of myself as well) that you will use about 20% of the same vocabulary in every text that you write, simply because those are the words that first come to mind. 

What should you take from this? Be yourself while you write; your message will best associate with you that way.

Perspective of Self

Memories fade. Blogs don't. When you write about what you are feeling, you will be able to look back at yourself in 5 years, 1 year, or even just a couple months and reflect on how you have grown since then.

Nobody know more about you than yourself. Hence, you are your own best critic and life coach. Don't be afraid to let the pen fly(or keyboard nowadays) and really articulate your emotional state. Vent it out. Let loose all the emotions that you have, but be sure to keep any negative ones private as it may be too soon to let someone else know just how you feel. 

Until a person fully develops by age 25, their pre-frontal cortex is still developing. This is the part of the brain that puts reason before emotional irrationality. As a result, it may be better to keep your most emotional writings private for a while, then look back at them later and decide if it is reasonable to share.

Remember, writing doesn't have to be a fruitless endeavor; you can write to understand yourself and to help other better understand you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Which Coding to Learn?

I have watched several Google Hangouts On Air with Google software engineers, designers, and interviewers. They all say the same thing: we want people who can learn. Technology is always changing (obviously, so what's your point?) Well, that makes learning a specific technology early on is useless. It's going to be outdated sometime in the future.

Instead, take the language that you know best(Python, Java, or JavaScript are a good place to start) and solve logic-based problems. Sites like Coding Bat , Top Coder , and CoderByte all offer many interactive puzzles for you to solve. This teaches you how to take an ambiguous situation and solve it. Hey, that's the whole idea behind coding anyway! The trick is to practice many, many of these challenges so that you can do them quickly and without mistakes.

Over time, you will develop the skills to take almost any problems thrown at you and find a solution effectively. What's really cool is that these skills are universal across languages. Syntax is relatively similar from language to language, so you should have little trouble adapting to new keywords and programming idioms. Plus, syntax is teachable; it can be explained to anyone who isn't a total beginner, whereas problem-solving skills can only be sharpened by the blade of extensive practice.

Learning coding can be compared to slaying a dragon. You can fiddle around with different swords and axes (programming languages), but at some point, you are going to have to slay all kinds of dragons(real-world problems) and the only way to do it is to know HOW to slay the dragons.(problem-solving skills).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My First Blog Post

Welcome to my blog! I have no idea what I am doing, but that's the idea, right? Explore the web and find new tools to reach more people to help them and start meaningful, engaging discussions, right? Blogging is a fantastic way to achieve this goal. Studies have shown that writing down your thoughts (be it virtually or on paper) helps solidify them in your mind and organize your thought process.

Now, like all skills, no one is a born expert. Learning to write great blogs takes time and practice, so you just have to write and write. Most importantly, write for yourself. No one and I mean NO ONE  will care about your work more than you. And why should they? They have no emotional attachment to your work. You do. So make it count. Make sure that whatever you are doing, be it vlogging, blogging, coding, acting, writing, or photo shooting, it is worth your while.

idk, random thoughts that came to me as I sit here on my recliner, typing away on my Macbook, listening to my dad in a business call, exploring the realm of the blogger.