Weekly Photo Challenge: Papua Skull Reliquary

Papua Skull Reliquary

A 19th century artifact from the Gulf of Papua, on display at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California. While some might think it’s creepy, I think it’s an amazing work of art. Also can be viewed here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Asmat Skull

Asmat Skull

The Asmat are an ethnic group of New Guinea, residing in the Papua province of Indonesia. This skull of one of their ancestors is on display at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California. While some might find it creepy, I think it’s a beautiful artifact of a culture we know so little about. Larger version can be seen here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth, Or: A Study In Curls

A Study In Curls

This week’s challenge is all about depth. I was doing this National Geographic photo assignment that required a faceless portrait, so I decided to focus on what everyone sees first when they see me: the hair. You don’t see many guys rocking this style. Upon closer (macro) inspection, I’ve just now noticed how many layers deep two feet of curly hair really is!

The Unintentional Rebel

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about rebellion. Specifically, times when you’ve tried to stick it to “the man” or whatever the terminology is these days. I should preface this by saying that I don’t consider myself a rebel. I really don’t. As long as everything is working fine and beneficially, I’m perfectly fine. If anything, I’m usually the one who ends up in positions of authority; for whatever reason, people seem to defer to me as a leader. I still don’t understand why, and my therapist says it’s a quality that I need to further explore. I think it’s partly because I treat those who are supposedly of a higher status than me as real people; rankings and titles mean little when compared to actual skill and capability. I have zero interest in politics. No amount of catchphrases and glad-handing will win me over. The reactions to this attitude are usually either appreciative candor, or resentful fear. Those who’ve tried to lord their position over me learned quickly that, despite being quiet and shy, I’m made of sterner stuff. And those who’ve tried to physically threaten me…well, let’s just say I’m not always quiet and shy. In the end, we’re all just human beings. Mortals. Fallible. Nothing more, nothing less. I’ve long lost the patience for people arrogant enough to believe themselves otherwise.

And yeah, you’d better believe it’s gotten me in trouble before. I’ve already written about my decision to grow out my hair, and the consequences that came with it. Still worth it, though. Some clashes aren’t limited to family life; when you question things while working in a corporate environment, conflict is inevitable. I lasted a dozen years in banking. I’ve dealt with bosses mishandling records, screwing up procedures, and attempting to cover it up to make themselves look better. Since these problems typically involved audits and logistics, they usually came at the expense of my time and effort. You know what’s worse than having inept management? Having inept management that knows it’s inept and refuses to admit it, then pushing the blame on others. If I catch something like that happening, I will point it out. If the higher-ups won’t listen, then I’ll just go higher and get HR involved. I can’t go into any details without getting personal, but I developed a reputation for being all-business.

Even early on as part-timer, I had that kind of thing going on. Without going too deep into it, there was a time in which smart phones were just starting to become popular. Some of my coworkers used them too much, causing the management to decide to confiscate them and leave them in our lunch room. If we didn’t comply, we’d have to resign on the spot. That was a big problem for me, as I had an old-fashioned flip phone that I kept for (highly likely) family emergencies. I rarely used it, but as a caretaker, I needed to have it on hand. The assistant manager tried to round up the phones – a few workers quit immediately – and came over to me. The following exchange happened:

Manager: Okay, your turn.

Me: No. I’m not giving you my phone.

Manager: Why?

Me: I need this on hand for my family. It’s strictly for emergencies. You know that.

Manager: …Yeah. But it’ll be in the lunch room. They can call the office.

Me: You know how terrible our incoming call menu is. The time it’ll take for a call to actually get through could mean life and death. Also, leaving it in the open lunch room? Where it could be easily stolen or looked through for important information? You really think I trust you or anyone else on this staff that much? No. Not happening. I’ll have it right here in my pocket, out of sight, and hopefully never used.

Manager: Give me your phone, or you’ll be terminated for breaking company policy. We can fire you anytime, you know.

Me: And private property laws supersede company policy. There’s no way you can legally confiscate my personal belongings. (Back then, there wasn’t…) You’d better do some reading before you lose any more of the staff.

Manager: This isn’t a debate!

Me: No, it’s not. We can agree on that, at least. I’m going on break.

I went to the lunch room, fuming and mentally preparing myself to walk out. One of the workers came back there in tears, apologizing profusely for letting the situation get out of hand. I just gave her a calm look and told her not to worry. I came back from my break to find that management had given up and punished the individuals actually responsible for the whole debacle. The management eventually gave me a halfhearted apology, but I think it had more to do with the fact that about 3/4 of the staff was willing to quit. I might’ve just triggered the others’ desire to stand their ground, and management decided to stop being foolish. If it happened today, I’d probably be fired on the spot. Either way, I was glad to do it. It wouldn’t be the last time.

Maybe I’ve been a rebel all along, even if I never intended to be.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie, Or: Curls Aplenty

Image

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie, Or: Curls Aplenty

I know this week’s entry is cutting it kind of close, but I didn’t have much time to do a proper portrait. Besides, I dislike how my face looks in pictures. I can never make the smile look natural, so I either look super stern or just goofy. Besides, I’m not exactly keen on putting my face online anyway. Instead, I thought I’d get a shot of what most people notice first about me: the hair. Please note that I haven’t brushed it in about 12 hours.

Mirror, Tell Me Something…

Hey, folks. Yesterday’s Daily Prompt was all about appearances. Basically, it’s about the discrepancy between the person you see in the mirror and the person you feel internally. That one’s kind of tricky, because it assumes that that you actually know the identity you’ve internalized. I don’t. At least, not completely. I’ve had to adopt and utilize so many personas over the years, that I’m not sure which one of them is real. Or more confusingly, maybe they’re all real, just different pieces of a larger whole. Like a jigsaw puzzle. And some of those pieces definitely don’t fit with what’s gazing back at me from the mirror.

The reflection in front of me is a 20-something somewhat androgynous fellow with olive skin. Could use a bit more sun. The build is above average at best; nowhere near an Adonis, but still in good shape. The age is hard to pin down; he looks young, but too serious and focused to be as such. He stares at me with dark brown eyes beneath a pair of black, thick-rimmed glasses. The eyes are intense and give off sense of utter awareness and mental calculation. There is no trace of a smile on his face, but he can fake one like a pro. His mannerisms and stances change fluidly; calm and relaxed (and maybe even seductive?) at one moment, sweet and pleasant the next, powerful and confident after that, and all-out vicious and terrifying when his buttons are pressed. His face is capable of surprising articulation, allowing him to silently glare, scowl, grin, and playfully mock with a few muscle movements. Two feet of curly, wavy hair spill down the back of his body, giving him either an air of either regality or wildness. He would not look out of place in a heavy metal band, or maybe Game of Thrones. It’s hard to tell if this reflection is just being haughty and aloof, or just in deep thought. Regardless, it’s easy to tell that he is a character, and will draw your attention the moment he steps in the room.

Appearances are so deceiving.

Part of the reason I grew out my hair was to mess with people’s expectations. I’ve never played in a band – let alone an instrument – in my life. I don’t even watch Game of Thrones! The long hair is just my way of muddling gender roles and refusing to let myself be victimized for it anymore. Apparently, I have the attitude to make it work. Heads turn and backs straighten when I enter a room. The hair is an indicator of confidence, something that doesn’t come so easily for me. I can pull off the regal, intimidating look, but I’m much more shy and quiet than that. It’s not so much about aloofness as it is oh no I have to talk to someone what do I say please no leave me alone. I’d rather be curled up with a book in something soft and comfy.  The shy/confidence thing is an ongoing paradox for me; I may not be amazing socially, but I’ve got an adventurous streak a mile wide. The only things that really match are the eyes. I’m fancy myself serious and scholarly, like professor or philosopher sans stuffiness. I’m always picking little details and observations, like some kind of cheap Sherlock Holmes ripoff. And while I may not smile much, anyone who’s had a good conversation or watched movies with me knows I will snark and mock with reckless abandon.

*Sigh* It’s such an incomplete self-perception. I need to learn more about who I really am.

I’m Blogging On Sunshine

Hey, folks. Tonight I was informed that The Part Time Monster nominated me for The Sunshine Blogger Award. I’d like to thank her for that; it’s really good to know that people are reading and enjoying my work. I don’t know if I have a sunny disposition, but if I can get you to smile and think, then I’ll know I’m doing something right. I couldn’t find the exact origin of the The Sunshine Blogger Award, so I’m just going to copy its rules from the aforementioned page:

1. Nominate 10 other blogs
2. Write 11 facts about yourself.

Aaaaand the nominees are….(In no particular order)

  1. Stefan Praetorius Naurin
  2. SathyaSaiMemories
  3. AngelArt Star
  4. LenzExperiments
  5. The Ellieverse
  6. Living in the Moment
  7. Ed Mooney Photography
  8. Lula Avila
  9. Morrighan’s Muse
  10. Shikha It’s The Little Things

Wow, that was actually really hard. I’ve seen some many awesome blogs already this year thanks to the Zero To Hero challenge, so choosing just ten is just…ugh. Anyway, 11 facts…

  1. I’m currently the sixth highest-ranked Chun-Li on the Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition PSN worldwide leaderboards…I play that too much.
  2. I have habit of memorizing whole movies, including The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyessy. Same goes with song lyrics.
  3. I once won a game of chess in four moves.
  4. I love LEGOs, particularly the Architecture series.
  5. I’ve talked my way into an exclusive museum exhibition and a software convention by just being honest, polite, and asking questions.
  6. My long hair gets me mistaken for being female constantly, even when I don’t shave. I’m still learning to enjoy it.
  7. I’ve come close to dying four times.
  8. The States aside, I’ve been to a dozen countries: Canada, Mexico, The Bahamas, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, France, Spain, Morocco, Gibraltar, Thailand, and Aruba. Someplace in South America is likely next.
  9. My writing voice is much, much louder and upfront than my real one. IRL, I’m the quiet guy in the corner with a book.
  10. I hunger for super-spicy food.
  11. I’m at a crossroads at my life; my previous career is over, and I have no idea what direction to go in. I don’t have a dream, and sometimes that terrifies me.

A Style All My Own

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about style. This one’s pretty awkward for me, because my personal style isn’t exactly…normal. I could never afford anything really fancy growing up, so the designer/label fads meant little to me. Instead, I’ve always focused more on simplicity. I’d take a good, sturdy pair of walking shoes over the latest Nikes any day. If I’m traveling somewhere and need to carry some extra gear, I’ll usually stick with cargo pants and a backpack. I typically wear a t-shirt as an underlayer, then have a dress shirt partially buttoned and untucked over it. The sleeves are always rolled up in case I need to do something potentially messy, or if I start sweating. No patterns or loud colors; I just mix and match my plain-colored clothes depending on the weather and how well they go together. I stick with combinations of green and brown shades to complement my olive skin tone and bring out my eye color. If I want a more formal look, I wear mostly black, but bust out a maroon dress shirt just to keep things interesting. During the winter, I use my black trench coat – which has a removable insulated layer for warmer temperatures! – and a nice, long scarf. Such ensembles are simple, elegant, and (most importantly) comfortable.

Alucard being one of my favorite game characters might have been an influence.

For some reason, such outfits make me stand out. I think it has a lot to do with expectations and stereotypes. As much as we all like to think we can see past physical appearances, such beliefs are still a huge part of our culture. Hey, here’s a little game to play the next time you’re watching prime time television: during the commercials, keep track of how many of them use beauty, age, or sexuality within the subtext. Remember that Nespresso ad? Because caffeine is supposed to be sensual and alluring. Gee, I sure wish I could have glamorous coffee time like (and hopefully with!) Penelope Cruz…and I don’t even drink coffee. There are similar commercials for eating yogurt, bathing, clothes shopping, cleaning the kitchen, etc. Forget being valued as a person; there’s nothing more important than being “perfect” in every way! Commercials are similarly condescending to men, albeit in different ways. Of course you want that new truck! Your worth is based on virility and ownership, so of course you want the most powerful, impressive thing out there. Of course men just wanna drink beer and act stupid. No self-respecting man would ever dare know about hygiene, cooking, culture, responsibility, parenting, emotions, or, you know, pretty much anything.

Sarcasm is such a wonderful thing.

Needless to say, I’m not comfortable with such expectations. That’s why I try to subvert them with my own style. I could easily get away with looking slovenly and mismatched. But I don’t, and people notice. Sometimes stare. “Real men” aren’t supposed to care, so I guess it makes me an anomaly. Men aren’t held to the same ridiculous appearance standards as women, but that also means less variety and individuality. How many bland suit and tie ensembles have you seen today? If it were socially acceptable and physically safe, I could probably rock a skirt and stockings. Since I can’t without risking a hate crime, I try to stand out more with shading and color contrasts. I also grew out my hair to create a more defining appearance. The two feet of curly, wavy hair have gotten me plenty of attention, in both good and bad ways. Women ask me about it all the time. I get called “miss” frequently. Occasionally someone will ask if I’m a rock guitarist, goth, gay, lesbian, or a Captain Hook cosplayer. It never occurs to anyone that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t like appearing as Mr. Another Generic Bland Guy and decided to do something more. Even if it means I’m more beautiful than handsome. If it makes people confused and intimidated, that’s fine. It’ll get them thinking. Ambiguity has a funny way of doing that.

Besides, I look and feel good. When it comes to style, that’s what really matters.

A Hairy Idea

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about ideas. Specifically, the best idea you’ve ever had. This one’s kind of tricky, because it’s not always clear whether the choices you’ve made are good or not. The old saying that “hindsight is 20/20” is totally right. You just don’t know. What seems like a good idea at one point could backfire spectacularly down the line, and some of the worst moments you’ll ever face may have some unexpectedly good results years later. Paying for college by myself felt like chopping off a limb with a butter knife, but it forced me to develop the discipline and focus that I needed. And though I’m currently unemployed, all the savings and lack of loans means I’m doing much better than countless others my age. Since I’ve already talked about it for another prompt, I’d rather talk about a less obvious great idea:

Growing out my hair.

No, seriously. I grew up in a devoutly religious and conservative household. Very traditional…except for being raised by a single mother who was always working. You might know how that goes. I was required to run the household and adhere to the rules and high expectations thrust upon me. And I totally bought into it. I was the golden boy; I always turned in perfect grades, maintained a part time job, and could have the house spotless and dinner cooking on time. I was praised for being so on top of everything. But questioning anything was…well, out of the question. Oh, I asked questions. I’m curious and tenacious by nature. But I paid for it dearly. You obey the rules, all is good. You fail to meet expectations, and you get tons of screechy criticism and passive-aggressive shaming.

It didn’t help that I was shy. I consider myself really introverted now, but I used to be a full-blown shrinking violet. Yeah, it’s not so cute when you’re one doing the shrinking. I was so drawn into myself and afraid of people that I had no social life whatsoever. I was the quiet, smart kid who aced his classes, went home, read books for hours, and did it all again the next day. I was awkward, wore glasses, and skipped a grade. And when you’re a boy growing up like that, it makes you a prime bullying target. You know how a lot of media focuses on the bullying epidemic and how terrible it is? Yeah, no one cared about that 20 years ago; not a single adult helped me. My feminine appearance made it even worse. I was (and still am) frequently mistaken for being female. Physically, I was a late bloomer; kind of short, a soft voice, and a head of thick curly hair. I still hesitate to wear shorts because the other kids used to accuse me of shaving my legs. There were people who’d shout slurs and throw things as they drove past while I walked to school.

My entire childhood and adolescence was like this.

Eventually, I started standing up for myself. Since trying to be nice and praying to God for a good day weren’t working, I began fighting back. And I was vicious. I was suspended exactly once, and it took at least three teachers to physically drag me to the office. Even now, years later, I’m still trying to get my anger under control. Work in progress, believe me. But lashing out didn’t solve the bigger problem: the repression of my personality. I lived to please and meet expectations, but I ignored my individuality and wants. I didn’t ask for much; I was never the kind of kid that demanded everything under the sun. And I was too busy schooling and working as it was. But I had to change something…I had seen some anime where the male characters could pass as women. Since everyone kept mistaking in a similar way, maybe I could do something about it…

Like my hair!

Yeah, I got the idea from watching anime. Feel free to laugh. But it was obviously more than that. So, I decided to refuse getting a haircut. Since my mother was the one that typically did it, she was shocked and possibly disgusted. I had to physically stop her from raising the scissors to my head. I went through years of her berating me for it. She screamed and moaned about how disobedient I was, and why I couldn’t be a better child, why couldn’t I just be normal, and that I’d never make it in the professional world. When I went to church with my hair tied back, I was openly mocked and came close to being thrown out. Rather than supporting me, my mother simply shook her head and said how sinful I’d become. My extended family were no better; I was – and still am – the subject of many jokes and incredulous stares. Some of my relatives occasionally threaten to cut my hair while I sleep. My coworkers just chalked it up to me being eccentric, but I had too many years of seniority for anyone to make a fuss. So I just kept letting it grow.

Skip forward to the present, I’ve got two feet of thick and wavy curly hair. I think it looks awesome, and lots of women – and men – certainly agree. I get questions about it at least a few times a month. Ever have someone ask if they can touch your hair? It’s kind of funny. I’ve got this weird Captain Hook/Kirk Hammett/young Robert Plant look going for me. People ask if I moonlight in a rock band. I’ve never even touched a guitar. And while I’m not exactly tiny, I still get mistaken for a woman constantly. Unlike before, however, I take it in stride. My decision to grow my hair was one of the few decisions I’ve made for my sake. It helped make me a much more confident, assertive person; I’ve been told that I come off as regal and intimidating. That’s a far cry from the mousy bully magnet I used to be. People see my style as a mark of individuality and act accordingly. I’m not afraid anymore; I carry myself with the understanding that this is part of who I am, and not some expectation imposed upon someone else. I may have never been the most masculine guy ever, but that’s okay. If I can’t be handsome, then I can certainly be beautiful.

Versatility, Thy Name Is Me!

http://versatilebloggeraward.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/versatile-blogger.jpg

Hey, folks. Tonight I was informed that Morrighan’s Muse nominated me for The Versatile Blogger Award! I’d really like to thank her for that; I’m very grateful for my readers, and versatility is something I strive for both on and offline. I’m still pretty new at this whole blogging thing, but I’d like to think that I’m getting a little better every day. Thus, here are the award’s rules, taken verbatim from the official page:

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  • Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. (I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Aaaand the nominees are….(in no particular order)

  1. The Travel Monster
  2. Outlook In Life
  3. Jonas Journeys
  4. Scribbles And Wanderlust
  5. DaVida Nature Photography
  6. Lens and Pens by Sally
  7. The Silver Leaf Journal
  8. The Syllabub Sea
  9. The Urge To Wander
  10. Greeneyedchess
  11. Photography Journal Blog
  12. Shannon’s Creative Work
  13. ArtKorppi
  14. Cappy Writes
  15. Amy Flynn Designs

Wow, that was surprisingly difficult. As for the seven interesting things…

  • I’ve been to a dozen countries, and there will be more next year. Yet I’ve never seen snow fall…
  • I have waist-length curly hair that often gets me mistaken for a woman, even when I don’t shave. I stopped caring years ago; it makes me look good.
  • My video game reviews have reached 1,684,823 hits as of the hour of this writing.
  • I’m really shy and introverted in real life; my writer’s voice is much, much stronger than my physical, soft-spoken one. I’m also far more snarky in really life.
  • I paid for my college education out of my own pocket.
  • I once won a game of chess in four moves.
  • I don’t have a dream, and sometimes that terrifies me.

Thanks again, folks. Have a good Monday!