Going Where You’ve Never Been

October 21, 2012

I haven’t had much to say to share with the world in a while, but this I feel needs to be said.

I’m currently having a crisis of identity. Maybe that’s a little intense, but it’s how I feel at the moment.

I’ve known for a long time that I don’t want to be an artist. I knew years ago, but I was afraid to leave my photography program. After all those years of building a portfolio and learning everything I wanted about photography, I realized early on in my college studies that it wasn’t what I wanted. Unfortunately I was too chicken to do something about it.

A while ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is finishing med school this year. He asked me why I didn’t choose to study a science since it was clearly something that interested me. I can’t remember what my answer was to him then, but now I’m pretty sure I know what my answer is.

I don’t blame anyone but myself for not pursuing science. I went to a great school with extremely bright people. I have faith that all of my friends are going on to do great things as engineers, doctors, marine biologists, and teachers. I love them all, and I have no regrets about going to the only non-secular all-girl school in the Bay Area. I do, however, regret ever feeling like I wasn’t smart enough to study science.

Everyone around me was so fucking smart. A couple of my closest friends were on the robotics team for our school. I always thought it was the coolest thing that they built and programmed robots to compete with other robots around the country. (Seriously, how badass is that?) It’s not that they ever excluded me or anyone else. Everyone was encouraged to participate if they wanted. I just never took the initiative to ask.

It was pretty intimidating to be around people who studied the shit out of cool things. Everyone was so confident and good at what they loved, and I just never felt smart enough to be that cool. So instead I turned to photography because it was something I understood and enjoyed. It became something I wrapped my identity around, as most of us do with things we love growing up.

To be fair, my love of photography started before high school. But my passion for academics didn’t seem to grow the same way. It could be because I was home-schooled for a year, or because I had a bad science teacher one year and couldn’t pull my grades up. Maybe it’s because I felt that good grades were more important than simply enjoying the act of learning.

Regardless of why I didn’t pursue science then, the problem I face now is what to do about it. I am very tired of school and have no interest in returning; however, school seems to be the only option to fully invest myself in learning. I guess I could pick up a book and read, or listen to some Podcasts if I’m too lazy. But it’s just not the same. I read any science-related news I can that’s listed in my BBC newsfeed, even though I don’t understand it most of the time. I just searched for free science lectures near Atlanta, and the first search result for “free education” turned up seminars on dating. What the fuck.

My name is Sterling. I have a BFA in Photography & Imaging. I feel trapped with a misformed identity and a stunted career path. I am on a mission to…to…I don’t know. To do something about it I guess.

The Moon’s My Teacher and I’m Her Student

November 12, 2011

I know I think about it a lot, but I don’t think I’ve ever posted about this before: my beef with Teach for America and Peace Corps. I have a variety of friends who’ve done them/are doing them, and I certainly considered it for a while. But eventually I realized that I would never accomplish what really needs to be accomplished by doing either of them.

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You Don’t Have Much To Say

October 11, 2011

I just came across Al-Jazeera’s series titled Slavery: A 21st Century Evil, which I think is more than 110% appropriate for these Occupy Wall Street protests.

Let me take a tiny step back. Yesterday I was listening to Sean Hannity (my co-worker’s default radio station on the drive home). He interviewed a young lady (Zuni I believe her name was?) who made some decent arguments about the corporatocracy and what people should do. I pretty much agreed with everything she said, but then he asked her why or how the corporations should be punished. She didn’t have much of a response. It would have been the perfect moment to talk about the link between modern slavery and American corporations.

This, again, goes back to what I’ve been saying, what Kevin Bales says in Disposable People, and E. Benjamin Skinner in A Crime So Monstrous: fight with your dollar. Zuni did mention this strategy, but didn’t stress it as much as it should’ve been. The example she used was MacDonald’s. True, MacDonald’s is not good for you and it would be ideal for people to stop supporting it; however, what Hannity wanted to point out was that MacDonald’s fulfills a desire the American people want. So ultimately the solution to the MacDonald’s problem isn’t that we should tax it more. We should curb the desire to eat their products.

The same goes for the perpetuation of modern slavery. Corporations like The Gap and IKEA fill a void in our lives for affordable, decent quality clothing and furniture. You can’t simply yell at the government and corporations for paying below minimum wage overseas if you continue to support these businesses. And maybe every single person occupying Wall Street doesn’t own clothing from The Gap/Old Navy or furniture from IKEA. It’s entirely possible, but very unlikely. We’ve accepted the products of modern slavery as essential to our everyday lives. Even our food. Even some food harvested in our own country is done by modern slaves.

I’m sure the people on Wall Street and in Woodruff Park all agree with my points, but are they ready to act on them?

Update 4:51pm: just saw that the Occupiers in Atlanta have marched to Bank of America in Midtown. So…you make the effort to get to the building, just so you can yell at it? Can’t you all simply walk inside and take your money out?! Can’t you actually do something to end the “greed”?!

Everything is So Wrong

October 4, 2011

Hi. I have to talk about the Occupy Wall Street protests. I didn’t want to because I don’t want to give them any more attention, but I just have to.

First, I want to post an image of what the latest headlines are for BBC (the international news source I respect and go to):

oh look! Kim Jong-Il's grandson has a Facebook! That's big news.

I scrolled down a little just to make sure:

Looks like pale people need to spend more time in the sun.

Do you see Wall Street protests anywhere in there? In case you can’t read the screenshot, the answer is no. They’re somewhere on the website, yes, but it’s certainly not as newsworthy as, say, the protests in Syria or apparently the announcement of the iPhone 5. (This, I’m sure, is another reason OWS is against the corporatocracy, which they all tweet on their iPhones.) Nowhere on the website says what they want to achieve, no goals listed, no demands. There are some supporters who have suggested demands, but the organization will not ask for anything. If you have no end goal, then what the fuck are you doing?

Before I really get started, I wanted to address the idea that this is has been compared to the events taking place in the Middle East, specifically Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. Sure, if you really want to make the argument, our democracy has become a bit of a corporatocracy. But do you know what was going on in Egypt? Mubarak had been in power for 30 years, assuming power after Sadat was assassinated. The disparity between the rich 1% in Egypt versus the other 99% is that the 99% in Egypt lives on less than the 99% here in the US. Up until January 25, people were afraid to say anything against Mubarak and the government. Here we constantly hear, see, and read a variety of opinions about our government on every media platform possible. And haven’t you noticed that there’s been absolutely no media allowed to cover the Syrian protests for months? Do not compare the occupation of Wall street to the revolutions in the Middle East.

My first suggestion: take all your money out of the major banks – Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo – and invest with smaller community banks and credit unions. How many people “occupying” these cities have accounts with these banks? You really want to bring down the corporatocracy? Stop feeding it money. In case you haven’t noticed, this is something I’ve been preaching for a very, very long time. I’ll address you more directly: Dear Occupy Wall Street, please march to the nearest BofA, Chase, and/or Wells Fargo, and have everyone close their accounts with these banks.

Also, why is it that they’re so willing to accept donated food? If the occupiers want to fight the system, why not buy food from smaller restaurants in the area? Even from NYC chains? Why ask people to buy you food and send it to you? Most likely people will buy you cheap food, which is processed by the big chains. And furthermore, why aren’t you personally stimulating the economy? If you want to change the system, why not do it with your dollar? Clearly you do not understand the language of corporatocracy.

I think one of the best illustrations of what I’m trying to tell you is this documentary Beer Wars. 95% of the beer industry is dominated by the 3 major corporations: Coors, Miller, and Anheuser-Busch. Even the precious “working class” Pabst Blue Ribbon is owned by Miller. The film is all about being an informed consumer. So what are you doing on Wall street? Are you telling people how to invest their money? Are you informing them of the power of their dollar? No. You’re camping out on the streets and not contributing to the economy.

Do something productive, or is that too square for you?

UPDATE 10/5/11: I’ve been proven wrong. BBC thinks that the Wall Street march is almost as important as Steve Jobs’s death.

there it is.

Don’t Tell Me What I Can and Can’t Do

November 1, 2010

There are lots of things I want to tell you about, but right now, I have to tell you this: this is the second election I have not been able to vote in because of the Egyptian government.

The first time in 2008, I was studying abroad in Cairo. I asked my mom to forward me my absentee ballot, rather than change my address. I figured that, if I changed my address to Egypt, I’d have to change it back to California, and so I might as well keep my address in California. Well, because the Egyptian postal service is so retarded, I never received my ballot.

Fast forward to October 2010, as I wait to receive my ballot back in California. I never changed my address, and I received a jury summons last winter. I assumed everything was OK, but I was wrong. I called the registrar to ask why I hadn’t received my ballot. Turns out I was designated an “inactive voter.” Inactive? Inactive?! I’m a pretty active person, if I do say so myself. I asked them why on earth they thought I was “inactive.” For some reason the post office returned something to the registrar to say it was undeliverable.

To make a long rant shorter, I’ve concluded that the Egyptian post office opened my mom’s package to make sure there was no porn, saw my ballot, and sent it back to my county’s voting registrar to say it was undeliverable. Instead of contacting me via all the contact information they have on me (phone number, alternative phone number, email), they choose to save money and just assume I’m an inactive voter. There’s no other explanation. I’ve never changed my permanent address in California. I’ve never contacted the registrar for any reason, and they’ve never contacted me (clearly).

Moral of the story: if you want to vote, be more active than you think you should be. The government and the registrar don’t have the energy or the time to make sure you care to vote. Also, FUCK YOU MUBARAK.

Our Common Goal

August 29, 2010

I’ve read a few articles on the SpouseBUZZ blog about military partner life, and this article about families being “whiners” really caught my eye. (And this article about a family forced to leave their home the moment the husband deployed, but that’s for another post.) One of the main points she touches on is the fact that so many people in this country seem removed from war. And this is why I believe the Wikileak was so important. For some reason, we all stopped being angry about the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. And by “we” I mean the civilian population.

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Maybe Someday My Dreams Will Match Up With My Pay

June 18, 2010

It’s been a long day, and tomorrow will only be longer. But I just have to say a few words about the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, because it’s really incredible.

I’m currently a consultant with the film festival, and I’ve seen a good number of the films. Tonight I saw Camp Victory, Afghanistan, which follows the events that unravel over three years as the US National Guard tries to help train the Afghan Army to bring stability to the country. I hadn’t realized how little the media actually covered regarding the rebuilding of this entire nation. And furthermore, I had no idea how complicated it is. I mean, I always knew how complicated it all was, but seeing things happen and listening to the struggles on both sides…it’s eye-opening.

After I saw Camp Victory, I spent some time with the Youth Producing Change filmmakers. Seeing them all here from all over – Afghanistan, Kenya, Texas, Slovenia, L.A., Brooklyn – and watching them interact has been priceless. It’s so great seeing youth engaging in arts and human rights and activism and wanting to learn more. I love it. I love it all. It always gives me hope to see young, peaceful youth trying to live a good life and share themselves with others.

Anyway, that’s what I wanted to say. If you’re in NYC, come out to the festival. It’s the best $7-$12  you’ll spend this summer. (well, one of the best.)

Ramblin’ On My Mind

March 1, 2010

I’ve been following this thread on Change.org about an undocumented student and her experience in the United States. The post is in honor of the DREAM act week of action. I’ve talked about my own complicated views on immigration law and immigrant rights, and this thread is just a continuation.

The question in this thread seems to be about the law and the money. It’s sad that we can’t seem to have a discussion about basic human rights without talking about economics and taxes. I get it. While Andrea’s family paid taxes, I’m sure there are plenty of illegal families who don’t. And I hear the argument “Why don’t they become citizens?”, which is another point I used to agree with.

How easy is it to acquire citizenship? And how much does it cost? And can you apply in languages other than English? It’s not easy. It’s not cheap. And you need to know English. We don’t seem to make it easy, so how can you expect that a girl who just turned 18 would have the resources to become a citizen?

The other point that someone brought up was: “People in this country that are here illegally don’t have rights (except human rights)….plain and simple!” Except human rights? So which rights don’t illegal aliens have? (Someone replied to my reply to generously inform me that the UN doesn’t create laws other countries have to follow, which is, of course, something I am well aware of.) It’s just not a statement I understand, and if you do, please explain it to me.

These issues really come down to simply being American. We’re born with our citizenship. We didn’t work for it (though some of us did). We benefit from taxes because we happened to be born here. How does that make us any more worthy than the people who’ve worked and lived here as long as they can remember? We take citizenship and nationality for granted. I think this video by a girl who went to Haiti (before the earthquake) explores how spoiled we are, and how citizenship and nationality is most definitely a human right:

Sticks and Stones and Weed and Bones

February 18, 2010

I had a conversation with an old friend on Facebook today. I knew him in elementary school. Actually, I had a huge crush on him in first grade. Anyway, he goes to the community college in the town where we grew up. I, however, don’t live there anymore. To put it simply, I moved to a town with better public schools, and now I go to one of the most expensive private colleges in the country. So when he asks me what I’m up to, and I ask him the same, I can only imagine what he thinks of me.

Like almost everyone else I knew in my old town, I’m afraid he thinks I think I’m better than he is. I won’t get into the entire story, but it was like this: I applied to private schools in another town because the public schools where I lived were terrible. Some of my friends’ families thought my parents thought we were too good for them. So when I reconnect with friends on Facebook, I’m aware that they know where I am now and what I’m doing. And is it weird that I feel I shouldn’t say certain things about what I’m up to?

For example, I currently have an internship with Tribeca All Access. To my friends here in NYC, that’s pretty cool and not surprising that I’d want it or have it. This internship, however, may come off as pretentious or privileged since it’s unpaid and in New York City. So when old friends or accquaintances ask what I’m doing nowadays, I usually leave out my internships unless they ask.

Another example: scholarships. A good childhood friend of mine told me after we had chosen our colleges that our elementary school offered a $400 scholarship to the alumni with the highest GPA. I had no idea about this, and she told me that she didn’t tell me this before because she thought I would get it. I’m not bitter about it and I’m glad she got it, but I was still a bit shocked. She thought I’d take a scholarship she didn’t believe I deserved or needed.

So is it wrong for me to behave the way I do? Is that more pretentious or class-ist of me to leave out details of my life?

One is Free: BFA Thesis Exhibition

January 25, 2010

So this self-portraiture project I’ve been working on since before I started this blog is finally coming to an end. (Sort of.) It will hang in all its glory in less than a month. Awesome? Yes. Nerve wracking? Yes. Still ridiculously awesome? Most definitely.

Here’s what my postcard looks like on the front:

that's right, I designed the postcard

And check out my website for all the details. Yay!