A Brief Look into the Past

On a trip to Paris last summer, I found myself in the Musee de Cluny. Built on the foundations of Roman Baths, the Gothic and Renaissance influences were apparent in the intricate stonework, steeples and arches. As I walked into the courtyard entrance, I felt transported back into a different time, everything down to the ground I stood on was a relic of the past. One room I entered was completely covered in intricate stained glass. The natural light filtering in through the windows flooded the room with brilliant colors and as I looked up, I wondered how the artists had made so many tiny pieces of glass fit together into one.

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The Musee de Cluny provided me with an incredible, though brief, look into the past. Art is a living piece of history that ultimately reminds us to remember our roots. And the Musee de Cluny was only a small part of the history and magic that seems to envelop all of Europe. One artist, Redditor shystone was able to capture this fleeting beauty by juxtaposing old paintings of the city of London with modern day images from Google Street View. Intermingled to become one image, they are absolutely breathtaking. Each example is filled with fascinating details from the past, showing how life changes even as the 18th century buildings remain the same. The old and the new seem to intertwine and complement each other, providing a meaningful perspective on then and now.

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 With the glowing hues and lovely scenes depicted in these 18th century paintings, it is easy to romanticize the past. Google Street View can hardly be compared to vibrant and moving pieces of such classic painters. However, these side by side comparisons are visual reminders of our evolution from century to century, they resound as hard proof that we are constantly changing and learning from the generations before us. As an artist and writer, I know history is a critical part of the creative process. The Musee de Cluny, along with all of these accomplished artists, has allowed me to see how history continues to influence and shape us even today.

Bringing Art to the Street

The best kind of art, by far, is the kind that makes you think.  Meet Plastic Jesus, a street artist who is doing just that by humorously shedding light on some of society’s most painful flaws through his unique and bold brand of satirical art.  His pieces have been appearing all over the world in an attempt to reveal the darker parts of society and hopefully incite positive change.  What could be more eye catching that a huge rolled up twenty dollar bill, a pile of cocaine and an American “Excess” card?  This installation cleverly satirizes American Express credit cards, condemning a wasteful , self indulgent and apparently addictive western society.

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Then we have an altered “STOP” sign on a normal street telling us to “STOP MAKING STUPID PEOPLE FAMOUS. ” I couldn’t agree more, Plastic Jesus.  Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian are among many less than bright individuals who would fall in that category.

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My personal favorite is not a piece of street art at all, but rather a sneaky installation in a Best Buy store. It consists of a plastic black box with a descriptive tag informing everyone just how expensive and useless it is. If that isn’t the best way to satirize advertisements, I don’t know what is.  Even the employees have a good laugh about the “Useless Plastic Box”

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What is most impressive about Plastic Jesus among his sneaky installations and public statements, is his ability to manipulate the world around him and make it into something meaningful. His statements are bold and fearless, because they challenge us to challenge ourselves. 

If you want to take a look at more of this artists work check out his official site at : http://www.plasticjesus.net/

 

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Rejected? Join the Club

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    March 27th, 2014 is a day that will live in infamy for many high school seniors rejected from the colleges of their dreams, myself included. It’s amazing how the simple phrase “We are unable to offer you admission …” can cut so deeply.  In one moment all of the years you spent preparing for those applications, all of the hours you spent studying for AP classes and taking part in extracurricular activities seem utterly wasted. In one moment all of your dreams and the bright future you envisioned is taken out by a nuclear explosion, decimated into a barren waste land with no survivors.

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                 Everyone will say, “But look, you still got accepted into some great colleges!” or “You’re still going to be very successful in life, this doesn’t define you.” and of course they’re right. A few rejection letters do not determine how happy you will be in life, what job you’ll have, or even how much money you make.  But at the same time, they leave a shadow of doubt wherever you turn. In many ways the rejection letter begins to represent your future failure, a lack of confidence in your future ability to succeed.  And we are left with the heart wrenching question: Where do I go from here?  

                The first and most important thing to know is that you are not alone.  I, along with the thousands of other rejected high school seniors, know how you feel.  Suzy Lee Weiss, a little known high school senior who was rejected from not one, but four of her top college choices knows how you feel. In fact, she wrote an article about it that was published in The Wall Street Journal. An article which, in my humble opinion, perfectly captures the frustration and cynicism associated with college rejections.  I would like to take this opportunity to show you the article for both its entertainment and altruistic value.

“ Like me, millions of high-school seniors with sour grapes are asking themselves this week how they failed to get into the colleges of their dreams. It’s simple: For years, they—we—were lied to.

Colleges tell you, “Just be yourself.” That is great advice, as long as yourself has nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports, killer SAT scores and two moms. Then by all means, be yourself! If you work at a local pizza shop and are the slowest person on the cross-country team, consider taking your business elsewhere.

What could I have done differently over the past years?

For starters, had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school. Show me to any closet, and I would’ve happily come out of it. “Diversity!” I offer about as much diversity as a saltine cracker. If it were up to me, I would’ve been any of the diversities: Navajo, Pacific Islander, anything. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, I salute you and your 1/32 Cherokee heritage.

I also probably should have started a fake charity. Providing veterinary services for homeless people’s pets. Collecting donations for the underprivileged chimpanzees of the Congo. Raising awareness for Chapped-Lips-in-the-Winter Syndrome. Fun-runs, dance-a-thons, bake sales—as long as you’re using someone else’s misfortunes to try to propel yourself into the Ivy League, you’re golden.

Having a tiger mom helps, too. As the youngest of four daughters, I noticed long ago that my parents gave up on parenting me. It has been great in certain ways: Instead of “Be home by 11,” it’s “Don’t wake us up when you come through the door, we’re trying to sleep.” But my parents also left me with a dearth of hobbies that make admissions committees salivate. I’ve never sat down at a piano, never plucked a violin. Karate lasted about a week and the swim team didn’t last past the first lap. Why couldn’t Amy Chua have adopted me as one of her cubs?

Then there was summer camp. I should’ve done what I knew was best—go to Africa, scoop up some suffering child, take a few pictures, and write my essays about how spending that afternoon with Kinto changed my life. Because everyone knows that if you don’t have anything difficult going on in your own life, you should just hop on a plane so you’re able to talk about what other people have to deal with.

Or at least hop to an internship. Get a precocious-sounding title to put on your resume. “Assistant Director of Mail Services.” “Chairwoman of Coffee Logistics.” I could have been a gopher in the office of someone I was related to. Work experience!

To those kids who by age 14 got their doctorate, cured a disease, or discovered a guilt-free brownie recipe: My parents make me watch your “60 Minutes” segments, and they’ve clipped your newspaper articles for me to read before bed. You make us mere mortals look bad. (Also, I am desperately jealous and willing to pay a lot to learn your secrets.)

To those claiming that I am bitter—you bet I am! An underachieving selfish teenager making excuses for her own failures? That too! To those of you disgusted by this, shocked that I take for granted the wonderful gifts I have been afforded, I say shhhh—”The Real Housewives” is on.”

The link to the article is right here:

 http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324000704578390340064578654

                After reading this I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with Suzy Lee Weiss. We shared the same frustration, the same anger, the same powerlessness. Her clever satire of the entire admissions process and our desperate attempts as applicants to win college’s favor through less-than-genuine means was entirely relatable. Maybe we were not ethnic or diverse enough, maybe we should have started a fake charity as she suggests, or began a campaign for the “underprivileged chimpanzees of the Congo.” In the end, the admissions process seems so arbitrary and random. How can universities like Harvard choose one 2400 SAT over another?  In a sea of perfect grades and test scores how does one distinguish themselves? I don’t know the answer to these questions, nor will I pretend to, but I do know that your worth is measured by so much more than an acceptance or rejection letter.   Earning a college degree means something, but it’s what you do with it that matters in the long run. Underneath all of the seemingly lost hopes and dreams, under the “what ifs” and the doubts, there is a bright future for those brave enough to face it head on.

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The Future

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Where will the world be in 100 years?  It would be nice to finally get those flying cars and hover boards, and maybe they’ll even find that cure for old age.  But beyond the obvious  scientific advances and innovative masterpieces that are bound to take place, how will we change as a society? How will our ideas change? How will our values and perceptions of the world be altered?  Will we lose sight of the good fight, or will we grow and take on the world’s problems as an entire race? These are the questions I ask myself because I feel they are the important ones, the ones that need to be considered and the ones that need to be answered. Because by imagining the future, we get a glimpse of the path we’re heading down. The future can be a difficult thing to imagine because it is so boundless, so vast in its implications. Authors like George Orwell and Ray Bradbury saw the future as a dystopian nightmare, a place where people were censored into ignorance and individuality was punishable by death.  While these futures envisioned in “1984” and “Fahrenheit  451” are extreme, they remind us to be aware of what makes us human.

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                When we think about human nature many are quick to point a finger at corruption and greed and the countless violent atrocities that have taken place throughout human history.  Without a doubt it is crucial for us to be aware of these horrors so we can be wary of our own capacity for destruction, our own capacity for evil. But the other less examined side of the coin is the bright side of human nature, our ability to show compassion and our ability to love. To be able to care deeply for someone other than yourself, to be selfless even if it is for something small, is truly what unites us and makes us powerful.  When we decide that everyone’s access to clean water is more important than that extra helping of food, or that a healthy Earth means so much more than a fuel guzzling vehicle then we are heading somewhere. Compassion is the one thing that can save us as we venture into the tricky years ahead.

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                How will the children a hundred years from now be different from the children today? If we play our cards right, they will be living in a better world.  They will be happier , healthier, stronger and more compassionate leaders than we could ever be, they will look to the future with hope rather than despair. But the future starts with us, the future starts now. If we are ever to envision this for future generations we need to utilize the compassion that links every one of us together, and tackle the problems that threaten our world and our fate.

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 If you have a few minutes, you should really take the time to watch the video link I posted above. I think the video is a really powerful wake-up call for us to get up and do something about climate change. It’s an advertisement for a new series on SHOWTIME called “Living Dangerously” , but it also really helps to illustrate my point that we are all responsible for these huge problems that are affecting us today, and the only time to fix them is now.    

 

Starting Small but Thinking BIG

When my teacher assigned my class an innovation project, I was completely lost. Innovate? What was I, a 17 year old high schooler, going to innovate? To me, innovation was for people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein. Who was I to stand among these giants? 

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Then again, Who was I not to stand among them? I was cutting myself short before I had even tried to come up with an idea. I was quitting before the race had even started.  So when my friend told me her idea to build a brand new auditorium for our high school, which has never had a functional stage or auditorium, I jumped on board immediately. Yes, the project was huge and had the potential to cost millions of dollars, but it also had the potential to do something incredible: for the arts, community, and the students. I wanted to be a part of that vision and process, no matter how big and ridiculous it was. I wanted to inspire meaningful change: and so our innovation project was born. 

 Step One: Getting Started

The first step in the process was finding the major flaws with our current resources and trying to come up with simple yet realistic solutions. Here is a picture of the current state of our bowl. Used for assemblies and a place for students to eat at lunch, it leaves a lot to be desired as a venue to hold performances, and falls short by a large margin for use as a functional stage. 

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 With no speakers, lighting, or over head cover, it fails to provide even the most basic necessities for a decent theater production or concert.  Speakers and lights have to be hauled in at great expense to the school every time an arts department wants to hold a concert on campus. The acoustics are practically non-existent, and the seating consists of uncomfortable wooden benches that can only seat a small percentage of the school. Also the stage is too small, and without a cover the entire area is useless in the rain. 

Clearly we had a lot of problems to consider, and fix. We knew that if we wanted the school board to even consider building a new auditorium we would have to come up with a design and plan that was fool proof. 

Step Two: Making a Plan 

We approached the problem of the bowl realistically. While we knew it wasn’t feasible to carry out the entire funding, construction and opening of an auditorium in just one school year, we realized we could do a lot to get the project up and running. We decided to create a design, spread awareness of our project through a video, and present our plan to the school board. We made deadlines, and scheduled meetings with people who would help and support our ideas, like the band or theatre directors.  

As a first step in the designing process, we even took out our measuring tools, and measured the bowl . We hope we could provide the measurements to professionals who could help us create a design.

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 Step Three: The Design (In Progress) 

We were not architects or acoustical engineers, but we had a vision for the bowl and what it could be. The idea was to double the size of the stage,  cover it with a dome, establish permanent outdoor lighting and sound, add a green room in the back and install a waterproof tent. This would allow the bowl to be used even when it was raining and provide a unique and attractive venue for all of the art departments: including theatre, dance, orchestra and choir.

  We looked towards incredible venues like the Hollywood Bowl for inspiration, and  constantly asked ourselves questions. Would the seating need to be raised? Was it feasible to establish a permanent outdoor sound system? How would a waterproof cover be installed? With many questions, and seeking guidances we sought out the help of the school’s orchestra and band director. As a teacher and performer, he had many useful  ideas for the bowl’s improvement. Most significant however, were his connections with a Disneyland imagineer who could help us get a real-life rendering of the auditorium we were considering. Though the design has some  flaws, and is still unfinished, this rendering is a major step in the right direction. 

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 Step Four: Sharing (In Progress) 

Finally, we began filming students and teachers and asking their opinions about our project. How would a new stage impact the arts at FVHS? What would it mean for the community? The response was overwhelmingly positive, and we look forward to finishing a video that will highlight how a stage will benefit the school and community. More importantly we hope it reveals how a new auditorium will inspire the students as artists, musicians and performers. 

 If you’ve ever been to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl you know it’s a magical experience. The historic “Hollywood” sign can be seen from any seat in the auditorium, the natural acoustics are incredible and the music speaks to your soul. Unless you are deaf, or hate music, you leave enchanted every time. 

 

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Though the outdoor auditorium at our school will certainly not be the Hollywood Bowl, it has the potential to inspire that same kind of magic for both its performers and audience. That is the ultimate vision for this project, to create a permanent place for the arts to thrive. Though the design is not yet finished, and we still have many more obstacles to overcome, we are heading in the right direction. Though we are starting small, we are not afraid to think big. We are just a group of high schoolers, but we have the power to make an impact. ~

Be an Athlete

I’ve been an athlete all my life.  I was put in swim classes at age two and started competing at four, the rest is history. I’ve tried softball and swimming, tennis and soccer but it wasn’t until high school that I really found my athletic “niche” with distance running.  Running is unique in that it requires no helmets, balls or equipment all you really need is yourself and a good pair of shoes.  The simplicity of its design is what gives me the freedom to challenge myself both on and off the track, and discover a state of peace I can’t get anywhere else.

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Over the years I’ve learned a lot from running, and athletics in general.  But most of all I’ve discovered that being an athlete is a lifestyle choice.  Maybe it’s about putting yourself through pain for an uncertain outcome, being a part of a team, or working hard to be better than you were before.  Maybe it’s being able to accept that it’s ok to lose. For me, an “athlete” isn’t a specific person or body type, but an individual who is passionate about something and willing to work to achieve their goals.

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The true face of an athlete isn’t the player who scored the most points, or has the most first places under their belt, but the person who can dig deep for strength when they’re tired and sacrifice for the things that matter.  They are the students in class who ask the most questions, and spend the most time studying after school. They are the artists who take outside courses just to improve their skills in drawing. They are the actors, dancers or orchestra members who stay at school until 6:00 every day practicing their parts.  They are the people who stand out from the pack not because of natural talent or ability, but because of their drive to succeed.

Does this sound like you? Are you willing to go to great lengths for something you’re passionate about?  If not, what are you waiting for? Instead of passively waiting for life, charge in head first and take that leap of faith. Only you can chase your dreams. Let’s all be athletes, whether you’re a business person, teacher, doctor, or starving artist.  The only person standing in your way is you.

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A Little Bit About Inspiration

What inspires you?  This is an age-old question that you might expect on a college application, but while it’s cliché, it’s also powerful.  In a nut shell, inspiration is joy. Inspiration is what gives life energy and purpose.  Many times, when we’re stuck in our daily routines, in the never-ending to-do lists and obligations, we forget to stop and experience the simple joys in life. We forget to be inspired.

I wanted to take a moment and reflect on what inspires me ( the big and the small ) because this year especially, I’ve been trapped between growing walls of stress and work. Many times,  I failed to look at the sky and notice how blue it was.  I forgot to play the piano, to feel the weight of the keys underneath my hands as music came from the wooden base.  For a moment I forgot to enjoy life. So here is a brief look at what inspires me, and who knows, maybe it will inspire you too.

Reading inspires me. I love to read, because the characters in the books usually lead much more exciting lives than I do. I could spend an entire day reading a novel and it would be a day well spent.  The characters and their stories make me want to be reckless, take risks or fight for a lost cause. I want to be just as interesting or spectacular as the people I read about.

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Art inspires me. I have a passion for the arts, in all their forms. Whether its music, or a painting or a musical production- I love when people create beautiful things.  My favorite song on the radio can make my day 10 times better, and just looking at a beautiful painting challenges me to paint something else beautiful.

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Nature inspires me. I love the changing seasons, and the smell of pine trees. I love the ocean breeze and the crashing waves. I wish I watched the sunrise more often.  Nature’s fleeting but breathtaking beauty never fails to amaze me.

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And of course, there are people. Kid’s laughing, old people smiling, great conversations, best friends, and good stories- these individuals are what make life so beautiful.

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But this is just a small handful of the things that inspire me. From wonderful novels, to best friends there are so many things in the world that make you pause for a moment and appreciate the beauty that is life.  What inspires you? If you aren’t sure, go and find out: write it down in a journal, or keep it safely stowed in your brain files. Either way, remember to pause once in a while and discover how life can inspire you.

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