The art of writing. A beautiful and ancient art which has been one of the most important technologies in modern society. The ability for information to become transcribed and shared with the masses has transformed society from being a verbal one into a written one. Information-sharing aside, it is also one of the most sacred ways in which an individual can shield him or herself from the outside world and meditate on his or her thoughts alone—in peace.
I have started to write more regularly since graduating and one question has bothered me for quite a while: is it better to write on a computer or on a pen-and-pad?
Before I continue to write, I am going to put this into stone. Neither are better. They both have their strengths and weaknesses.
Writing on the computer definitely has many advantages. On a computer, one is able to type quickly and efficiently, which can be easily posted to a blog or site in mere seconds. Convenience is definitely the key word here. Furthermore, I have noticed that I am able to type as quickly (if not quicker) than I can think—which allows for an easy stream of consciousness to flow into my digital text.
Then comes along writing on a paper-and-pad. Old, boring, out-of-fashion, passé. I am sure there are still many writers out there who prefer to write primarily on paper, but new and more “hip” online writing platforms are much more attractive such as WordPress, Blogger, and the new Tumblr.
Being a “digital native,” I have always wondered why people would spend the extra time to write on a pen and pad which I viewed as “slow and inefficient.” One of my rationales was, “If you are going to write something on paper, you will probably have to re-type it up on the computer anyways. Might as well cut out that unnecessary step, and just type everything up on the computer in the first place.”
Cindy first encouraged me to write on paper regularly, in the form of a journal. She purchased me a journal (one of my favorite presents of all time—thanks Cindy!) and encouraged me to write in it daily. Cindy has always been an avid journaler, and highly recommended me the practice.
At first I was a bit hesitant. Several times in my life I have vowed to keep a consistent journal, but never wrote any entries after the 3rd or 4th day. I know that if I go back home, I can find mounds of dusty old journals that were eager for me to write in, but were left neglected. However around the time that Cindy got me the journal, I began a writing class at UCLA in which we were mandated to keep a daily journal. We were told that we could write anything we wanted and how much ever we wanted, as long as it was consistent. Having this requirement was the first impetus that got me to start writing consistently. However over time, I began to enjoy the practice, and I can proudly say that I have almost filled up this journal full of text (I originally wrote this blog entry into my journal, and now I am typing it up to share with you guys all online).
There is something magical about writing in a paper-bound notebook which I cannot quite put into words. The feeling of my pen gliding across the page, feeling the subtle yet firm texture of the paper. Every once in a while my hand cramps up because I am still much more accustomed to typing on the computer than writing for long periods of times. (Pauses to massage hands).
I feel that the biggest advantage of writing on paper rather than typing on the computer is that there are much fewer distractions. Sure when you’re writing on paper, you might have an annoying roommate bothering you or some noises from outside, but you won’t have a blinking Gmail icon, blogs, or sites nagging for your attention. As I am writing this, my two dual-screen monitors sitting on my table are turned off, and they look a bit lonely. It is as they are begging me, “Come on Eric—turn me on. Just for a minute. It will just take a second, I swear.” I ignore their little pleas of attention and go back to my writing.
I look at my handwriting and although it is scrawled and barely legible, it has character. My character. A piece of myself which is transmitted onto the page. It has soul, character. Each character looks different. Sure, there are some of my own words that I cannot make out quite clearly, but merely studying the gestures of my strokes can make illegible words legible.
I can hear the etching sounds of my pen’s fine metal tip scratching against the paper. In the background, I can hear the crickets chirping outside and the sound of an occasional car passing by. I feel part of the “real world,” rather than the “false” online one.
Sure the irony is that after I am done with this, I will type it up and post it to my WordPress blog for all to see (what I am doing right now). A bit contradictory huh, that I am advocating for more analog means of writing while showing the negatives of writing digitally?
Although I am advocating for the practice of writing one’s thoughts down into text, the online blogosphere is a wonderful place to read the original ideas of others and build a support system of friends and acquaintances. The advent of the internet has democratized information which allows anybody to share his or her thoughts with the rest of the world. You could potentially have your ideas broadcasted to millions of viewers, without having to publish in a popular newspaper or magazine. Now with a few clicks and a bit of patience, anybody could become a popular and well-read writer.
Therefore I advocate you to try the practice of not only regularly writing, but doing it in a paper-back journal. There is nothing else in the world quite like it.
A few days back, I was able to have the great pleasure of meeting Cydney Alexis over at Material Lives in person. The way that we first met on the internet was quite fascinating.
Cydney works over at the Admissions department in the University of Madison-Wisconsin, and she happened to have a photo intern working for her who heard about my street photography from a photography professor. Cydney’s intern then went to my site and liked the template that I was using, and suggested to Cydney that they use a similar style for their blog. Cydney then checked out my photography, and enjoyed my images, and emailed me inquiring about how much I charged for my prints. I still have the email stored in my Gmail account:
Thu, Jul 30, 2009
I am sure I cannot afford one of your photographs, but I thought I’d inquire anyway–how much do you tend to sell them for? They are just gorgeous.
Upon hearing such kind work about my photography, I was quite touched and offered to send her a few prints (free of charge). After sending her the images, she was extremely gracious and after that we hit it off. We found out that both of us had interests in audiobooks, photography, as well as blogging. She recommended me a bunch of books, one of them being Kafka on the Shore, written by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Over the year, we were able to keep in touch via our blogs as well as through email.
This summer my girlfriend Cindy went to the University of Madison-Wisconsin to take a Vietnamese-intensive program called SEASSI for the summer. I promised her that I would visit, and before I left Cydney came to mind. I wasn’t 100% whether Cydney was in Madison or some other city, so I shot her a message and got in contact with her. After confirming that she indeed was in Madison, we arranged to meet in person (for the first time) sometime during the week.
After exchanging phone numbers, we arranged to have dinner together, along with Cindy and another friend. We met up and ended up eating at Dotty’s Dumplings, one of the favorite local restaurants. Over some amazing fried cheese curds, chili-cheese fries, and hamburgers, we talked for the first time in person and had a wonderful time, grabbing some amazing Gelato afterwards.
I recall when I told my other friends that I was going to meet a friend that I only knew online, they gave me curious looks. I have to admit, there have been times that I have met people online in the “real world” and was quite shocked that their offline persona was the exact opposite of their online persona. Not only that, but some people even had deceiving online profile pictures which looked nothinglike themselves in real life.
The thought of two people meeting perchance via the internet, nearly half a country apart and meeting in person and eating dinner together is quite an unusual encounter. Such things would have never been possible even a few decades ago. However Cydney’s and my online turned offline encounter is a true testament on how the internet is closing the geographical gap in the world and bringing people closer together.
Also in the case of Cydney and I, meeting in person for the first time was quite natural and not awkward at all. I had never seen a clear photo of Cydney, and wasn’t 100% sure what she exactly looked like. Upon meeting her in person, I found out that she dressed quite trendy, and even rocked a sweet tattoo on her shoulder. Also while talking in person, it was interesting that we had so much to talk about, when referring to one another’s lives via our blogs or based on the comments we would leave one another. I felt that I grew to know her quite well on the internet, and nothing about her life truly caught me off guard when meeting her offline.
However at the same time, I still feel that it is important to make the point that online interaction could never replace offline interaction. Even though I did know a great deal about Cydney through the internet, the way in which we were able to interact in real life brought an entirely new type of energy. Through the laughs, tasty food, and good conversation we were able to connect to an extent which could never be possibly recreated online. However with the permeation of online virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft, The Sims Online, as well as Second Life, how close can online interaction replicate offline interaction?
Anyways, I still have a few days left in Wisconsin and I should be able to meet Cydney at least once more. And sorry Cydney– I haven’t been able to upload our photos yet, hopefully they will be up soon!
While working at my internship at DemandMedia, I met this man by the name of Bailey who worked in the lobby. He is an African-American male in his mid-forties and always wore a well-pressed grey suit and red tie–perfect for his job of greeting guests and assisting whenever he could. His nose carried a pair of circular glasses, which were slightly thick which made his eyes appear larger than they truly were. He also had a shaven head on top, with enough hair to keep him looking professional.
Whenever I entered work, Bailey would always greet me with a cordial, “Good morning sir,” never forgetting to call me sir. I could tell in his voice that his words were genuine, especially when directed toward me.
Over the course of the period that I interned at Demand Media, I would always see him 3 times a week, all when I got in at noon and when I left at five. It then started to become my ritual to just make small chat with him whenever I would see him–while others would simply choose to ignore him and go about their daily lives. We made small chat about typical things like the weather, how work was going, and how my studies were faring as well.
Before I knew it, my final day came and I told him of the news. By then we had built up a quite friendly relationship with one another, and Bailey asked me of my future plans. I told him how I was going to start working at AKMG, an online advertising agency which happened to be on Third Street (Demand Media is on Second Street). I then suddenly felt compelled to tell him about my interest in photography and how I was planning on spending more of my free time to pursue it.
I then recalled some of the black and white 4×6 photos that I had with me in my backpack, and took it out. I told him of my trip in Europe and proceeded to show him images from my trips in Europe, including pictures of the Eiffel Tower, St. Peter’s Cathedral at the Vatican, as well as other images from Korea. His eyes grew as large as dinner plates, and he held the images in his callused hands with sincerity and delicacy. I then told him if he was interested in my images, he should check out my website: www.erickimphotography.com. I then took an image, flipped it, and wrote the address on the back.
As Bailey was still gazing over my images–eyes darting back and forth as if he was trying to figure out which image he preferred the most, I told him, “Here, these are for you.” While sitting down he then slowly looked up at me and then quickly shot his head away while shaking his head and saying, “Oh no sir I could never take these–they are much too expensive and valuable.” I then replied and told him, “No–take these. This is my present from me to you.” After him refusing for a bit more, I then told him in a stern voice, “If you don’t take these images–you will be insulting me.” He then quickly paused, shuffled his feet on the ground and then repeated what I said to himself, “…If you don’t take these images–you will be insulting me” I then stacked up the photos and then handed them to him, signaling to him to take it. He then slowly accepted the images–still full of reservation.
I then felt the feeling of overflowing joy and emotion in the air and then I suddenly felt a transformation in Bailey’s face and attitude. He lowered his voice a bit and I saw his true character come out–not just the “front-stage” behavior that he was so used to giving all of the other lobby guests. With the words of a sage he told me of how what I was doing with my photography was truly a beautiful thing and that it was amazing how I was pursuing my true talents and dreams. Bailey then told me of a quote that he heard the week before which he really loved, “Many are called but few choose to listen.” He slowly repeated the words to himself several times, alternating a few words here and there as he admitted to me that he didn’t quite remember the quote. He told me that I was common in the sense that I was one of the many people who were called to be great in life, but amazing in the sense that I let myself be chosen to achieve that greatness.
As Bailey was telling me these words of wisdom, he also told me not to concentrate on his voice, but “the voice behind the voice.” He then held up a piece of tissue to illustrate his point. “Don’t listen to me, but the voice behind my voice. I am nothing merely but a vessel in which words are flowing out of. In-fact, who I am doesn’t really matter–but rather it is my message that counts. Don’t forget about your dream and strive to pursue it.”
I was truly taken-back from these words of wisdom. Somebody that I first perceived as an uneducated male whose potential in life amounted to being a lobby host was truly a wise-man in disguise. I was thoroughly impressed by his insight and clarity when it came to life and was moved with emotion. His words reverberated with me so much that I felt compelled to write this blog post after having nearly a year-long hiatus without writing.
So as you go throughout your day, your week, and the rest of your life– don’t forget that inspiration, genius, or greatness is not something that is only given to a select few. Rather, it calls all of us. It simply depends on whether we choose to listen.
A list that I wrote while traveling in Europe about 100 tips/things I have learned about photography that I would like to share with others:
1. Just because someone has an expensive camera doesn’t mean that they’re a good photographer.
2. Always shoot in RAW. Always.
3. Prime lenses help you learn to be a better photographer.
4. Photo editing is an art in itself
5. The rule of thirds works 99% of the time.
6. Macro photography isn’t for everybody.
7. UV filters work just as well as lens caps.
8. Go outside and shoot photos rather than spending hours a day on photography forums.
9. Capture the beauty in the mundane and you have a winning photograph.
10. Film isn’t better than digital.
11. Digital isn’t better than film.
12. There is no “magic” camera or lens.
13. Better lenses don’t give you better photos.
14. Spend less time looking at other people’s work and more time shooting your own.
15. Don’t take your DSLR to parties.
16. Girls dig photographers.
17. Making your photos b/w doesn’t automatically make them “artsy”
18. People will always discredit your work if you tell them you “photoshop” your images. Rather, tell them that you process them in the “digital darkroom”.
19. You don’t need to take a photo of everything.
20. Have at least 2 backups of all your images. Like they say in war, two is one, one is none.
21. Ditch the neck strap and get a handstrap.
22. Get closer when taking your photos, they often turn out better.
23. Be a part of a scene while taking a photo; not a voyeur.
24. Taking a photo crouched often make your photos look more interesting.
25. Worry less about technical aspects and focus more on compositional aspects of photography.
26. Tape up any logos on your camera with black gaffers tape- it brings a lot less attention to you.
27. Always underexpose by 2/3rds of a stop when shooting in broad daylight.
28. The more photos you take, the better you get.
29. Don’t be afraid to take several photos of the same scene at different exposures, angles, or apertures.
30. Only show your best photos.
31. A point-and-shoot is still a camera.
32. Join an online photography forum.
33. Critique the works of others.
34. Think before you shoot.
35. A good photo shouldn’t require explanation (although background information often adds to an image). *
36. Alcohol and photography do not mix well.
37. Draw inspiration from other photographers but never worship them.
38. Grain is beautiful.
39. Ditch the photo backpack and get a messenger bag. It makes getting your lenses and camera a whole lot easier.
40. Simplicity is key.
41. The definition of photography is: “painting with light.” Use light in your favor.
42. Find your style of photography and stick with it.
43. Having a second monitor is the best thing ever for photo processing.
44. Silver EFEX pro is the best b/w converter.
45. Carry your camera with you everywhere. Everywhere.
46. Never let photography get in the way of enjoying life.
47. Don’t pamper your camera. Use and abuse it.
48. Take straight photos.
49. Shoot with confidence.
50. Photography and juxtaposition are best friends.
51. Print out your photos big. They will make you happy.
52. Give your photos to friends.
53. Give them to strangers.
54. Don’t forget to frame them.
55. Costco prints are cheap and look great.
56. Go out and take photos with (a) friend(s).
57. Join a photo club or start one for yourself.
58. Photos make great presents.
59. Taking photos of strangers is thrilling.
61. Natural light is the best light.
62. 35mm (on full frame) is the best “walk-around” focal length.
63. Don’t be afraid to bump up your ISO when necessary.
64. You don’t need to always bring a tripod with you everywhere you go (hell, I don’t even own one).
65. It is always better to underexpose than overexpose.
66. Shooting photos of homeless people in an attempt to be “artsy” is exploitation.
67. You will find the best photo opportunities in the least likely situations.
68. Photos are always more interesting with the human element included.
69. You can’t “photoshop” bad images into good ones.
70. Nowadays everybody is a photographer.
71. You don’t need to fly to Paris to get good photos; the best photo opportunities are in your backyard.
72. People with DSLRS who shoot portraits with their grip pointed downwards look like morons.
73. Cameras as tools, not toys.
74. In terms of composition, photography and painting aren’t much different.
75. Photography isn’t a hobby- it’s a lifestyle.
76. Make photos, not excuses.
77. Be original in your photography. Don’t try to copy the style of others.
78. The best photographs tell stories that begs the viewer for more.
79. Any cameras but black ones draw too much attention.
80. The more gear you carry around with you the less you will enjoy photography.
81. Good self-portraits are harder to take than they seem.
82. Laughter always draws out peoples’ true character in a photograph.
83. Don’t look suspicious when taking photos- blend in with the environment.
84. Landscape photography can become dull after a while.
85. Have fun while taking photos.
86. Never delete any of your photos.
87. Be respectful when taking photos of people or places.
88. When taking candid photos of people in the street, it is easier to use a wide-angle than a telephoto lens.
89. Travel and photography are the perfect pair.
90. Learn how to read a histogram.
91. A noisy photo is better than a blurry one.
92. Don’t be afraid to take photos in the rain.
93. Learn how to enjoy the moment, rather than relentlessly trying to capture the perfect picture of it.
94. Never take photos on an empty stomach.
95. You will discover a lot about yourself through your photography.
96. Never hoard your photographic insight- share it with the world.
97. Never stop taking photos
98. Photography is more than simply taking photos, it is a philosophy of life
99. Capture the decisive moment
100. Write your own list.
So as you may/may not know, I recently graduated with a B.A. in Sociology at UCLA. Here is a speech that I submitted to be a student speaker at the Sociology graduation, but it was not accepted. However, I would like to share it with you guys regardless:
“Voices of the Class”—Sociology 2010 Graduation Speech
I don’t think that anybody starts as a sociology major. Us sociology majors seem to always stray from one major to the next until we end up with the best major, which is sociology. I remember starting off as a biology major my freshman year, because I was forced by my parents to become a prestigious doctor or something like that. The day that I realized I shouldn’t go down the pre-med route I remember calling my mom and telling me that I was going to switch to Sociology—the study of society or something like that. You can imagine how that went.
I then remember sitting in my first Sociology 1 class in which I was introduced to the wonderful world of sociology which caused me to question everything that I have been socialized into believing. It gave me the power and inspiration to assert myself as an individual, rather than letting social conventions define me. It inspired me to go out in the world and make a difference, and to do what I truly wanted to do, rather than what my parents or anybody else wanted or expected to do.
There have been many instances in which I have been criticized or questioned for being a sociology major. Sociology? What are you going to do with that major? Become a teacher or a social worker? How do you expect to feed your family in the future?
I have heard the following quote from a fellow sociology major: “A sociologist is someone who, when a beautiful woman enters the room and everybody looks at her, looks at everyone.” Sociology is a major which teaches us to evaluate the ways in which we present ourselves to others, how we interact with others individually and through a group. It teaches us to analyze and be critical of what we are told by others, whether it be through facts or statistics. We learn to question the structure of the family—and whether human nature is more nature or nurture. We learn to appreciate the beauty of everyday life.
Through the guidance of many of my teachers and mentors at UCLA and in the Sociology department I have been able to participate in so many different opportunities. Through Professor Emerson and Rachel Fretz’s Sociology Immersion Program I have learned to conduct ethnographic research and learning how to appreciate “members meanings.” The graduate students in the sociology department have given me great grad school advice, and told me what it is to truly be a sociologist. Professor Jack Katz gave me the opportunity to help assist him with his research, in which I learned how important it was to be organized, self-driven, as well as professional with my work. I have always looked up to Terri Anderson as my personal mentor, and now she is my faculty mentor for a USIE class that I am teaching which is titled: “Sociology of Facebook and Online Social Networks.” We truly have one of the most prestigious Sociology programs in the world, which is defined by the professors and teachers whom teach and guide us.
Sociology is not about being passive, it’s about doing. We cannot call ourselves “social scientists” while studying society through a microscope. However we must do sociology through interacting with others and using what we learned to critique and hopefully improve society. I will now share the quote that got me into college and will use it as a springboard as I graduate: As Ghandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
The other day I went to mass at the University Catholic Center (the Catholic church next to UCLA). During the end of mass I took the communion, headed back to my seat and did a short prayer and opened my eyes. Across from me I saw a male student who was waiting in line to get the communion in a wheelchair.
While he was in line, he was steadily wheeling himself forward closer to receive the Body of Christ. When he was second in line, I saw him put his hands on top of one another–open to receive the communion. Once the person in front of him left, I saw him thrust his body forward which propelled his wheelchair close enough to the priest who was dispersing the communion. He then received it, put it into his mouth, and then wheeled himself back to his chair.
It was a moment which was so beautiful that I felt chills go up my spine. To see my fellow peer show his strength over his disability was quite an eye-opening experience. In the beginning of mass he was sitting in the row from the opposite of me, and I remember studying him more out of curiosity than impoliteness. I saw his thin legs–most likely from the fact that he had not used his legs in many years.
We are all blessed with strengths and weaknesses. It is merely a matter of what we choose to do with our life’s circumstances which show our true inner-strength.