My Favorite Robin Williams Movie

I have to say — after going through my Robin Williams‘ movie marathon — my absolute favorite film is “World’s Greatest Dad”.

*** SPOILERS in the review BELOW ***

It’s his most complex work: tackling issues of adolescent alienation & hormonal overdrive; parenting; walking the line between professional (but intimate) relationships; dealing with the death of a child; and the culture of depression and suicide.

The dark comedy that results is genuine, gritty, and funny — despite the grim subject matter of the film. The moment when Robin Williams breaks down to the song “Don’t Be Afraid, You’re Already Dead” is both heartbreaking and powerful.

In fact, what I like most about “World’s Greatest Dad” is how unabashedly real it is. Unlike the fun prosthetics involved in “Mrs. Doubtfire” or his flying antics in “Hook”, this feels like a character we can all probably relate to at some point in our storied lives. Lance (Robin Williams) is just a dad with a passion to be a writer (another reason why I loved the film).

Daryl Sabara as Kyle is hard to like, but his teenage angst and weirdness reaches out to you. Alexie Gilmore as Ms. Reed is both sexy and charismatic as Lance’s love interest.

Just before Kyle and his father Lance (Robin Williams) are getting along better, Kyle dies on accident — which Lance uses as an opportunity to write a fake letter making him look like the “world’s greatest dad” even though his son always thought he was lame.

There are some complex questions that arise: How do we cope with loss? Is it okay to be self-serving in the event somebody we love passes? How do people react when suicide occurs? Why do we need people to sympathize with us — and where do we draw the line when that goes into pity and deception?

Robin’s acting here is both subtle and affected, not that crazy manic.

I love the writing. The situations brought up are perfect: Peter identifies as gay and comes out to the football team. Lance’s old lady neighbor likes to watch zombie movies with him. The ending is iconic and the image of Robin jumping naked into the pool after confessing the whole thing was a farce is both cathartic and perfect.

Most of all Robin’s real-life circumstances are strangely foreshadowed in “World’s Greatest Dad” and give us some insight into mental illness, the culture of celebrity, and mythologizing suicide.

It breaks my heart to watch RW here because nobody knew how sad he felt in real life, though maybe a little bit of that permeates through Bobgat’s Goldthwait’s overlooked film. One of RW’s best friends and neighbors near his house north of San Francisco was aware of how Robin’s demons came out in film.

“World’s Greatest Dad’ is hard to watch because it hits a little close to home, maybe one of his demons. But If anything it is a testament to Robin’s virtuoso — he chose interesting and inspiring roles (who can forget the bench speech in “Good Will Hunting”?) He’s been a genie, J.M. Barrie’s everlasting hero, Matt Damon’s Boston life coach. He’s been many things I’ve loved seeing that I could have very well chosen for this feature.

But most of all I’ve always wanted to see a movie about Robin Williams being himself, and I think “World’s Greatest Dad” feels the most down-to-earth he’s ever been.


‪#‎RobinWilliams‬ ‪#‎suicide‬ ‪#‎depression‬

Ten Best Web Apps

I am a lifelong learner and enjoy stimulating activities, especially if they involve games & problem solving.
I’ve also had experience in user interface & design so I like to explore the latest apps.
While some of these apps aren’t necessarily cerebral, you’ll certainly feel smarter using them today.

Some features of a really good app these days:

  • Mobile – Users are able to use the application anywhere on whatever device, especially their smartphones.
  • Well-designed - It just makes sense. You don’t have to think about how to use it.
  • Intelligent - The best apps have cutting-edge science behind them and are just really damned fascinating.
  • Social - You are able to share the app and its content on your social networks.
  • Brand - Apps that have a strong brand image are some of the most memorable and communicate the inherent quality of the product.

In no particular order –

  1. Lumosity [] – I’ve only missed two days in 17 during my Lumosity brain training! The exercises in this fun and well-designed suite of mind games will keep you entertained for hours on end. There are even analytics: the slick visuals help you understand how you compare to your age group. There’s a real sense of progression and improvement, and all the games are challenging in their own unique ways. Lumosity also has a quality blog full of interesting psychological articles. Make sure to check out the science behind the games: plasticity is truly worth a read! The games are on all your popular platforms including Android, iOS, and PC.Lumosity
  2. Pocket [] – As an avid reader of the web I’m often saving articles, photos, videos, and other content — Pocket is where I keep everything. Once you “Pocket” something (you should get the handy Chrome extension) it stays in your account, where you can access it (even offline). Your pockets are kept in an attractive and colorful layout that makes excellent use of images and tiles. The app is also available on many platforms.Pocket
  3. Codeacademy [] - Nowadays you cannot say learning code isn’t important. It has become an indispensable skill and resume builder, and everyone from little kids to seasoned professionals have taken advantage of the latest slew of coding “boot camps”, summer camps, and other intensive programs. Codeacademy is one of the best web apps out there for coding, employing a really effective tutorial platform for Ruby on Rails, PHP, HTML/CSS, and Javascript. You rank up and can share your progress with friends on Facebook.Codeacademy
  4. Feedly [] - Having Google Reader withdrawals? Feedly is superior in every way, taking RSS feeds and arranging them in neat little custom categories (for example, I can put Mashable & The Verge into a ‘Tech’ category). The interface is pretty and minimal, and makes saving content quick & easy. I frequently like to share links I find here on Twitter, which integrates perfectly. Feedly has a premium offering I haven’t tried yet, but it already feels premium as a free product! Well-worth getting a new account.Feedly
  5. Khan Academy [] - Free web classes? Yes, please. Well-produced and easy-to-follow videos? Thanks! Khan Academy spans a wide range of topics from economics to programming, and you’ll always find something new to learn. The instructors are fantastic and the topics are fairly comprehensive — I’ve spent hours here!
    Khan Academy
  6. Duolingo [] - The beautiful interface allows you to learn a multitude of the world’s languages, free. Ranking is fun thanks to a great points system, and the courses walk you through listening, writing, & reading. So far I have taken French & Spanish and I’m already impressed by how well put together the lessons are. You can also track your progress with your friends on social networks.
  7. Talentoday [] Using advanced psychometrics to measure your “soft skills”, the Talentoday platform is a robust, modern, and mobile career guidance application now available FREE online. It measures 20 personality traits and 8 motivational traits in an attractive “radar” that you can share on you social networks – LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.Talentoday, Inc.
  8. [] uses learning “playlists” to extensively cover fascinating & important subjects, like productivity. You can set a goal for how much content you want to read everyday (default’s set to 30m). The playlists are really well put-together & become more than just a thoughtless link share.Gibbon, Co.
  9. Fotor [] is a great way to create collages and edit your photos online. My only gripe is that it’s a little clunky sometimes, but the results turn out beautifully!
  10. Simple [] is changing the way you do banking. Aside from being an absolutely gorgeous app, Simple lets you manage your finances in a visually appealing and useful way — helping you to set goals (for example, raise enough money to go to a concert). The iPhone app is a joy to use. You don’t need to get rid of your old bank account to use Simple (they are meant to be used together). This is an excellent complement for people who need to learn self-control when it comes to spending! Incalculably practical.

Why the iPhone 5S is Still the Best Smartphone on the Market

About me: I was coming from the Android ecosystem as a power user — unlocking my Google Nexus 10 and Samsung Galaxy S2 by checking out the plethora of Youtube videos and other rooting resources online. That was my initial draw to Google and my experience was great. When I jumped ship to iOS, I immediately dispensed with my freedom to customize just about every single  thing in my mobile OS. Why would I choose less freedom?

Simply because when it comes to a smartphone, I just need something that works efficiently, effectively, & thoughtfully. I didn’t need another custom PC or the anxiety of having to change every little detail. With Android releases, I was  tired of the ecosystem lagging over time, something that hasn’t occurred in the 7 months or so since I’ve owned an iPhone.

Here’s a list of why I love my iPhone 5S, and why as a creative professional it has proven to be an amazing and robust tool –

  1. A world-class camera. There are other contenders (the Samsung Galaxy S5 for example), but without boasting too many “marketing” megapixels the optics on the iPhone 5S are top-notch. There is a reason why most Instagrammers use Apple’s flagship product — the images look fantastic online. With a dual-led flash, fantastic low-light capability, and stunning depth-of-field, I’ve often  taken my iPhone 5S traveling when I was too lazy to bring my bulky dSLR. It’s a very capable shooter for beautiful landscapes and sharp portraits. The iOS app has many useful functions, including a neat slow-motion mode! Well-designed apps in the App Store complement the photography experience, from Afterlight to Facetune for skin touchups.
  2. The pinnacle of product design. With every iteration of the iPhone, Apple has continued to make its smartphone look leaner and sexier. The iPhone 5S is simple and clean and does everything it needs to do with its one-button layout and evolving form factor. While a lot of Android products forego a home button for more screen real estate, I find it to be tactile and satisfying to press a button versus a vibrating portion of your LCD. I know the iPhone 6 will probably have a larger screen, but I always loved how easy the iPhone is to grip in your hand. Apple introduced gold this year and I snagged the 64gb version, which looks fantastic and stylish. The fingerprint scanner is a really practical touch, making it faster to get to your home screen and do work. The official leather case is classy and fits the iPhone like a glove, though dirt and other small particles have been known to creep underneath. I still marvel at how beautiful this product looks — Jony Ive really did a fantastic job.
  3. A 64-bit processor. To me, this was HUGE when it was announced in 2013. No mobile OS had doubled its bandwidth before Apple announced its new 64-bit CPU. The video and processing capability of the iPhone 5S show when I use it to edit videos and photos on apps  like iMovie. The user experience is smooth and snappy, and even as I experimented adding a bunch of apps I haven’t noticed any notable slowdown. It’s really fast to switch between apps and to launch new ones.
  4. A mature and wonderful ecosystem. I once had a Google Nexus 10 and I didn’t enjoy it as much because there were far less Android tablet apps at the time. Apple’s App Store has tons of iPad-optimized apps and is simply a model e-commerce platform. Popular apps like Facebook and Instagram have been optimized on iOS. I have used their Android counterparts and they are not as good or sometimes even dysfunctional. The quality of the apps is really top-notch, and it’s fun to use your fingerprint to easily buy apps in the App Store.
  5. An integrated and thoughtful user experience. I’ll return to the topic that started this blog post regarding customization. One of Android’s greatest appeals is that you can literally do anything with it in terms of customization. Apple limits you, but only because it recognizes how to make the user experience enjoyable through tight integration. The apps within the default iOS ecosystem all work together well — from the much-improved Maps to your iCloud contacts. Apple has always prided itself with having a great integrated hardware and software experience. After a week using iOS, I love how smooth it is to create groups of apps, where my actions are often accompanied by friendly and subtle animations. I don’t really have much room to question or change what’s already working fantastic.

It really just started with a shift in consumer attitude: just what am I going to use this smartphone for?

As somebody who calls himself a “social media artist”, my smartphone needed to take excellent photo and video, be strong enough to edit entire portfolios on-the-go, and just needed to work well. Android wasn’t without its share of headaches… when you have so many options a lot of them are mediocre, forgettable, and just create clutter. Look at Samsung’s Galaxy bloatware, which many of its users don’t even care to use.

Apple reminds us that building a strong user experience doesn’t mean throwing the best specs out there. Yes, it could use water-proofing or the heart-rate sensor in the Samsung S5 — but ultimately, the Apple iPhone 5S is an inspired piece of brilliant engineering. I look forward to the next generation of iPhones and the changing technology landscape. As wearables enter the market, I have every hope that Apple will launch its purported fitness product with every eye to keep the user experience tight, integrated, and wonderful. I am sure whatever will come (the iWatch?) will work really well with the iPhone already.

I might sound like an Apple fanboy, but I’m also coming from a place with much respect and experience in the Android ecosystem.

Google and Android make great phones, and the open-source community for Android is quite liberating –
but ultimately my vote goes for the iPhone. Maybe it’s because it’s been in the industry longer or feels like the original smartphone, but Apple has really matured its product to a point where I can expect its next generation to be top of its class too.

IMAGE EXAMPLES (pulled from my Instagram,


My Favorite Movie of 2013 – “The Wolf of Wall Street” Review


All content (c) Paramount Pictures, Inc & Red Granite Pictures, Inc. No copyright infringement is intended.

My good friends know me as a media aficionado. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been an avid consumer of art,  film, music, theater, and literature. I have skills and experience in all five to varying degrees. I am even currently writing a novel (The Jimjilbang 30)! As someone who calls himself a “Social Media Artist”, I think it’s important to have a good grasp of popular culture. Indeed — I came into photography through my love of movies, telling stories with the neighborhood kids with my Dad’s Hi-8 video camera.

That said, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is my absolute favorite film of 2013.  This is coming from a film lover.

It’s Scorsese’s zaniest DiCaprio collaboration (I only wish he won the Oscar for his fun performance).  I’m always surprised that this talented filmmaker could have been a minister at one crossroads in his life, just because his latest feature film has a Guinness World Book Record of F-bombs.

The movie will offend some if you’ve never seen a Scorsese crime film before, but now especially the elements of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll trulyshine. You will have to admit it makes the film memorable though: from Leonardo’s hilarious experience on quaaludes to half-remembered lambo DUIs and swallowed goldfish.

I am most impressed with the outstanding and colorful cast. Supporting DiCaprio is Jonah Hill’s Donnie, a talkative New Jersey businessman with buggy eyes and suspenders. His character is off-beat and funny, and at one point in the film is the main focus of a fantastic and trippy slow-motion scene.

Kyle Chandler is perfect as the straight-edged FBI officer, trying to incriminate Leo’s decadent Jordan Hill (I’ll elaborate on the main character later). Margot Robbie’s Naomi is sassy eye candy; and Matthew McConaughey’s Mark Hanna makes a brief but rhythmic appearance (hmm HMM HMM, beat beat) All of Leo’s underlings are hilarious as sleazy crooks of Stranton. Even that guy from “The Walking Dead” plays one of them in a handlebar moustache, I think…

But I am most in love with Leo here. For nearly three hours I was mesmerized by his acting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Leo have this much fun in a movie. He really let himself go here, in the same way people give into drugs and cocaine — it’s crazy and kinetic. He definitely has a presence that has grown throughout the years, especially with his relationship with Scorsese. Their collaboration has improved and has reached a pinnacle here. Leo is clearly an addict of many things that make America American: from promiscuous sex to mind-numbing pharmaceuticals.

Meanwhile, the plot is a joy to experience. Let’s take a thousand foot view through a quick synopsis: Jordan Hill (Leo) starts his own company after a tough time in Wall Street. His Vice-President is Donnie (Jonah Hill). They rent a space and recruit other dubious professionals to the company Scranton Associates, where they sell worthless stock to people and make millions.An FBI officer is onto Jordan named Patrick Denham (Chandler). When Jordan and Donnie screw up after letting the company’s extravagant antics go (there was an orgy in an airplane at one point), Jordan is forced to make a difficult decision. The script is patchy in some places — with some scenes feeling slapped onto the presentation just for fun — but it moves along at a good pace. You will be fascinated by the insane world of exploitative Wall Street brokers.

Now let’s talk about presentation. I love the camerawork in “The Wolf of Wall Street”. It speaks of Scorsese’s mastery of the craft. For example, the last shot of the film displays an audience enthralled by Jordan Hill’s speech — lingering, spellbinding. Any storyteller could have been behind the wheel with this Oscar-nominated film, but I am grateful for Scorsese’s exciting and wholly superior vision. Some small visual hiccups prevent me from calling “The Wolf of Wall Street” 100%, like that obviously CGI helicopter. Nevertheless, here are some of my favorite shots:

[1] vlcsnap-2014-03-27-06h32m57s123

[3] vlcsnap-2014-03-27-13h55m13s50

[4] vlcsnap-2014-03-27-13h52m17s85

[5] vlcsnap-2014-03-27-13h57m57s152

As usual Scorsese shows a strong talent for putting together good soundtracks — recruiting the likes of Kanye or using a rockin’ version of “Sloop John B” to drive the movie’s crazy pace. Later in the film when the main characters are rescued by Italians a wonderful 80′s rendition of “Gloria” plays, while a plane burst into flames outside.

I’ve watched other Oscar-nominated films (including the winning “12 Years a Slave”) but the reason why I choose “The Wolf of Wall Street” is because it tells a traditional Scorsese crime drama in its funniest, kinetic form. It was quite fun and stylish. I still need to watch other Oscar-winning films like “Dallas Buyer’s Club”, but I will always love “The Wolf of Wall Street” for its hilarious pop culture references (“BENIHANA!”) and edgy, hilarious lines (“I’ll tell you one thing. I’ll never eat at Benihana again. I don’t care whose Birthday it is.”).Yes, the violence is there, and this is definitely a rated R movie, but Scorsese never allows the antics to overpower the overall strength of this film.

In my heart TWoWS will always be my #2013 winner.  I feel like “Wolf” does something different that’s refreshing and comedic and surprisingly relevant to a time when wealth is disproportionally located within our society. It also doesn’t forget the thrilling sense of danger Jordan gets himself into…

A great Capitalist romp, bold and unapologetic — A+.

What is a “social media artist”?

I am not really sure if I coined the term, but I haven’t seen it floating around or defined by anybody. I began thinking of ways to look at marketing differently based on this idea that social media and artistic mediums can come together to attract the masses.

A Social Media Artist is an individual who uses social networks to express themselves creatively. ‘Social networks’ include WordPress, Tumblr, the Facebook Pages platform, Twitter, and especially Instagram.

My startup is a creative media and design business called Latte Cosmico. While I tend to focus on photography, as Social Media Artist it is my ambition to deliver content happening right here and now, using whatever appropriate medium — video, writing, drawing, graphic design, etc.

In the spirit of artists like David Hockney, I want to make my life art. I want it to be completely transparent. I want to express myself openly and in ways that dissolves the stigmas behind certain identities and encourages a conversation about things we are afraid to talk about, or things that are just really, really cool.

I believe that marketing should be inclusive, even though we must target certain populations for effective revenue. The world should be a more open place in order for it to progress forwards, and I mean to show that in everything I’m passionate about: from my book “The Jimjilbang 30” to my NPO Webs4Charity.

I hope this gives you an idea what a social media artist is, and I look forward to sharing my work with you!


“The Samaritan from Jupiter”, Flash Fiction

** Dedicated to KC.  Sorry your Christmas present is late! **

It was a Christmas cold with contempt and dreary. If you pressed your cheek to the asphalt it would go numb in an instant. There was a chill in the breath you’d exchange — puffs of fog here and there — in and out, in and out.

The town in this story is called Tremont. The state could be anywhere. It hardly matters. All you need to know is the town is small and content, ill-sorted for any unusual matter or phenomena. The police officers are proud of their job and make sure their leather belts are securely wrapped around widening bellies. The bellies get wider in Tremont as the cold gets colder.

A teenager coughs and sputters and gets sicker, but nobody notices. He hides it behind a congenial smile. His name is Max.

Max is the newest resident to the small town square. He waits on a street corner beside an electronic shoppe, the lights flickering hopelessly. Here and there a visitor enters the shop — in and out, in and out. Not one notices his hands stretched out, the bandages wrapped around them where the blood has soaked, red and wanting. But he extends them out until he is tired and starts to process things.

I should really get a box, he thinks. As in a box to put all this boundless currency in, some sort of container to relieve his trembling appendages.

Max is new to this stint, so it is only now that he considers the box.  He’s only been on the streets for a day. He doesn’t want to remember why he left, except that from now on  the incident will be a haze. He has chosen to make it hazy. Not the pleasant, numbing kind. But a haze where violent shapes and figures consort behind the Gaussian curtain, and you just want to look away.

The sun is just about to set behind the local pharmacy as a stalk of hot air emanates from the chimney. The sky cannot make up its mind what it wants to be. In a last-ditch effort to be loved and recognized it throws all kinds of colors Max’s way. Crimson and pink and a  navy blue so rich Max finds it difficult to keep his attention. He traverses the two blocks where he knows there is a dumpster in an alley, where he can find a box. And lo and behold, he finds a suitable shoe box after rummaging for about five minutes. The bandages have dirtied now.

As if out of nowhere, he notices an old man in the alley coughing furiously. Max jumps. There is something strange about this man’s aura.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” he croaks, putting a hand to his chest to calm the turbulent movements.

Max recovers quickly, but still watches his words carefully.  He is not just speaking to anybody…

“I’m Max,” — he walks forward to shake the man’s hands — “We’re in the same boat gramps.”

The old man extends a hand covered in black coal, and their hands meet. Gramps’  hands are surprisingly warm.
“Well. This is going to sound strange, but I don’t know my name,” he says.

Somehow Max is unsurprised. There is an air of anomaly about this person.

“That’s okay,” Max says. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, though I can surely use a cuppa,” Gramps chuckles. He looks at a stranger passing by the alley. A young man with perfect blonde hair is holding a styrofoam cup of something steamy. As he passes Max thinks how he’d like a cup of coffee too.

“I’m sorry gramps. I don’t have much myself.”

Gramps smiles warmly revealing a line of perfectly white teeth. It is in stark contrast to the rest of his muddied and dirty outfit. Max takes a moment to realize they are just dentures.

“I appreciate the company nonetheless. There’s a stray cat that comes and visits me, but he hasn’t shown up for days.”

“How have you been living out here?”

“Slowly and patiently,” Gramps replies. “I would like to know my name though.”

For awhile Max doesn’t say much. The crazy young sky has matured into a dark black. The air is still, and Max suddenly realizes just how quiet it is. He cannot hear the cars or the buzzing of the electric generator in the town square. Silent night.

In the distance he notices a bank ATM by the tech shoppe glowing slightly…

“Can I trust you with a secret?” Gramps croaks, suddenly disturbing the night’s solace. Max jumps. It’s almost as surprising as his initial encounter with the old man. “Can I be your friend? I don’t have many friends here. But I do have this –”

The old man puts his hands up and blue sparks start to form at his fingertips. They’re subtle. The crackle they make is like a small fire’s.

“I — err…  guess so,” Max says. Max remembers what it was like to put his hands out and ask for money, and recollects himself. “No, I’d love to be your friend.”

Gramps smiles.

“Friends tell each other secrets. What’s yours?”

Max is taken aback. He thinks for a second, then decides to trust the old man. It’s a moment that requires a small amount of radical courage. The tiny discomfort  he feels towards the man goes away: from meeting him suddenly to finding out about his secret powers.

The haze in Max’s head slowly lifts, if only momentarily. The curtain draws back to reveal a memory –

“My uncle’s a drinker. He kicked me out of the house a few days ago, and bloodied my hands.”

“I’m sorry,” Gramps says. “That doesn’t sound right. There’s not a lot I understand about human nature, ”  - the old man looks at his hands — “but then again I’m not from around here.”

“I know,” Max says instinctively. Max knew the moment he met the man.

“What do you need, my friend?”


“How do you get food around these parts?”


The bank ATM in the background glows ominously. Max eyes it. It’s as if Gramps can read his eyes and feel Max’s stomach grumbling too –

“I can get you money.”

Max and the old man exchange a look of recognition. The old man smiles warmly, and Max can feel a different energy coming from Gramps’ hands. It is deliberate, compassionate.

That cup of coffee surely looks good right now…

He lifts Gramps slowly and they make their way to the bank. The alley is like a vacuum in space and time, and the minute they leave the stillness in the air disappears. Max notices sound returning to the small town square, filling it with what little life Tremont has.

It is 7 PM.  One stout police officer leaves for home. While the sky is a dark black, street lamps illuminate the sidewalk in an amber glow. Leaves fall and the wind picks them up, carrying them to distant locations.

Max and Gramps are almost there.

A man and his daughter are walking towards the bank ATM. She is at that point where she’s big enough to keep up but still struggling to match her father’s wide pace. The pair arrive at the ATM. He takes a check out of his wallet and deposits it after a few minutes exploring the menu on the screen. The check goes in; a bank statement goes out. The little girl is holding a barbie doll.

“I can make it rain. I think that’s the expression, right?” Gramps laughs. This is the first time Max hears him laugh. It is hearty, like Santa Claus. The old man does not seem to notice the father and daughter leaving. She is jumping for joy about something. The Subaru they approach in the parking lot has a fresh Christmas tree strapped on top.

Gramps’ sparks emanate from his fingers. “That’s where you get money, right?”

Max is hesitant. “Yes, it is.”  The car leaves for the suburbs of Tremont, a collection of Christmas lights and novelty mailboxes Max has just left. “But we can’t get it here Gramps.”

“Human nature is very strange.”

The ATM glows. Max wonders if he should take back his words, then the feeling goes away. He looks at the old man and the cafe at the town square.  A young woman emerges with a styrofoam cup of something steamy.  Max is filled with newfound determination.

“There are better ways,” Max smiles. “People leave their money there too. That’s a problem.”

The alien thinks for a split-second, then nods in agreement. “You’re a lot is a lot kinder then I thought. Nobody has looked at me once.”

“I did.”

Gramps laughs.



Blue Couch

Life is about the meaning you put into it.

I wasn’t there, but one of the most lasting images of my college experience is a blue, weathered couch falling down a three-story apartment complex. My former roommates were there to witness history.  Josh showed me a blurry Internet video of him and  Jovanny looking down on the couch as it went over a black railing into the courtyard below.

There was nothing remarkable about that piece of furniture. It was tattered in some places, and the color was fading. It was surprisingly comfortable. Despite the first inhabitants of 307 finding it on some Berkeley street, it meant something to the people that eventually lived there and eventually left.

After being a hermit my first few years in college, moving in with actual roommates on Haste and Shattuck was enlightening. I slowly came out of my shell, and 307 was the safest I could be myself. I met some wonderful people… There was Julie, an English major with a passion for literature and developmental psychology; and Rocky, one of the coolest guys I knew who was into making a good cup of coffee and growing plants.

I met some people who became my closest friends, and some I even call my best:  Josh, the most inspiring actor I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing; Kathleen, the hardest working EEPS/Circle K’er/social butterfly ever; Jovanny, a linguistics major and a happy-go-lucky friend…  Michelle, a ballet dancer with big dreams and ambitions.

I learned a lot from my roommates, perhaps more than most people who simply go through college and happen to live with people. We experienced a lot together. And yes, that definitely included the bad — the stressors, the personal drama that entered our lives as you must imagine undergrads bear. We were growing up in our own ways.

But I remember –

On rough, rainy days it was awesome to retreat to the couch under some covers; or to watch ’28 Days Later’ with Josh squirming at seeing James Franco cut his arm off. I recall chicken mole and steak dinners or Jovanny’s spicy chicken soup; people inebriated from nights out at Rolling Rock; moments where important things permeated our college existence, from break-ups to new careers.  I coded my first website on that couch and on many nights approaching finals it became a place where we would memorably KO after saying ‘just one more page of reading’.

I recall memories in pieces or their entirety around this piece of furniture, even when we needed it out of the way.
This was for a three-light strobe setup in the living room for my impromptu photoshoots, or our infamous house parties.

But that couch was always there.

I know college is gone. I miss it a lot, but I have no regrets.

One of the most amazing people I know once told me that friendships don’t start or end, they just change. They go through phases. Today I don’t talk to many of the roommates I had in 307, but  I certainly can at any point. We can talk about that couch for one thing.

In my head, it will always be housed with images where I felt everything around me was changing. I was changing.

And because of the memories we built around it, it’s as simple as remembering if I ever want to crash on it again.



Fourth grade was the best year of my life. I like to joke that everything after went downhill.

Let me tell you about an amazing teacher! Her name was Mrs. Besette. She had red, curly hair and wore glasses. There is nobody in the history of teaching that brought so much creativity to the job and passion for making learning fun. Not even my professors at Cal compared to my fourth grade teacher. She was an inspiration at a little public school in San Jose called Robert F. Kennedy Elementary, some fifteen years ago if I’m counting correctly.

I don’t even remember the point to one of our activities, just that it was very fun. It might have been there to teach us about economics. We setup a town with a jail, some shops, a bank, etc. It was  pretty legit! There was paper currency and everything, and laws that even a sheriff enforced. At one point some kid stole Pokemon cards so we had to put him on trial, and I remember the room being very quiet and still. There was a dimension of reality that made us feel like adults — which was pretty awesome, since at the time grown-up was something most kids endeavored to be.

I was (appropriately) a stationary shop owner. My buddy Matt helped me make our store sign ‘Super Stationary’ after the iconic Superman logo, on a piece of yellow butcher paper I’m pretty sure he’s kept to this day. I sold pens and paper and stuff.

We also had a school play.

I wanted to be Sherlock, because I was really full of myself at fourth grade. It was a marked difference from the quiet, humble kid who emerged in fifth grade.

‘Silver Blaze’ was a play about some rich dude who messed up his own horse so he could get the insurance money or something. Admittedly it is a really boring Sherlock story. I can tell you the twist because it’s nothing remarkable, so you’ll have to forgive me for spoilers.

The dog doesn’t bark. He doesn’t bark and because we know he doesn’t bark we know the owner dude did it.

Suffice it to say — I actually didn’t know what the hell I was saying at the time. It was just a bunch of British gibberish to me. The point was: we had fun with it. We built the sets and the costumes and everything, and I fell in love with theater (I would later play a male chauvinist pig named Bullshot Crummond in high school. He was based on Sherlock.)

We spent hours and hours on this little project of ours, and I was really proud of myself for having a kickass British accent. I made some really awesome friends and memories. From what I vaguely remember: RJ and Ashley were married; Mary wore a mustache and a bowler cap as the bad dude; the horse might have been made of cardboard. Joey was a cop, Rachel was the maid, and we even had stagehands dressed in black to move the cardboard setpieces around.

Fourth Grade. 'Silver Blaze' play.

Fourth Grade. ‘Silver Blaze’ play.

I can’t remember the details as they’re a little hazy, but I do remember a feeling.

Nowhere in the history of being me did I feel more comfortable being myself, and that was in fourth grade.

I was talkative; I was proud I was smart; and most importantly, I learned to love reading. Mrs. Besette’s greatest contribution in my life was to setup a way we would love literature instead of dreading it.

The incentives were books and other prizes, but since my head was so big I liked to log a ridiculous amount of minutes and show off. Some titles I discovered that year: ‘BFG’, ‘Matilda’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. I was really into Roald Dahl then.

Books protected me in later years. Words, literature, writing: these were things introduced in the fourth grade that I didn’t know would help me cope later, because growing up was sometimes difficult.

That year I remember everybody knew be by my second first name (because Filipinos liked to come up with behemoths of names, like ‘Jonamir Ian’ or my little sister ‘Tiffany May’).

So I was Ian in the fourth grade. And for the rest of my life because my fifth grade teacher felt it was more appropriate I would be Jonamir.

I actually miss Ian a lot. He was this naive kid who had a bunch of big dreams and ambitions and an imagination. You couldn’t shut him up sometime.

You certainly can’t shut him up now.