“Let It Go”

I bet that, after seeing the title of this commonplace book (my last one!), you thought that this would have something to do with the song “Let It Go” from the Disney Movie Frozen, and understandably so since it took over the Internet for quite some time. However, I’m sorry to disappoint you; this post will be about a different song from a different Disney movie. More specifically, it’s going to be about the song “Little Wonders” by Rob Thomas from the movie Meet the Robinsons.

While I have always loved the song, recently, it’s been hitting me a little differently.

The first couple lines of the song are as follows:

Let it go

Let it roll right off your shoulder

Don’t you know

The hardest part is over?

Now the reason why these lines in particular have been impacting me more than usual is because it is currently finals season and I have just simply not done as well on my first two exams as I had hoped or expected. As a result, I have constantly been dwelling on how my poor performance on my exams will negatively affect my grades, and while I know in my head that grades are not everything and that I should think of the bigger picture, I can’t help but to continue to stress about how poorly I did.

But because I really do know that there’s nothing that I can do about it now and that it’s unhealthy for my to continue obsessing over this, I have been trying to get myself to move on from it, and these lines, among other things, have helped me try to do so.

But while these words are fitting in my situation, this is not their “original” meaning because in the movie, the “it” in the first two lines is obviously not referring to doing poorly on a final exam. However, I am able to make my own meaning due to the fact that there is absolutely no possible antecedent to “it.” In other words, you can make “it” mean whatever you want it to mean, and depending on what you choose, the message that these word convey will change slightly while still existing within the realm of the more general meaning of moving on from something and looking towards the future.

If you haven’t heard this song before, I highly recommend checking it out! I’ve linked it below.

Pride

As I was scrolling through my Instagram Explore Page recently, I came across this image:

I was immediately struck by how powerful the image was, and I couldn’t help but want to share the image, along with my thoughts on why it is so moving, here.

So, why is this image able to move people so deeply? Well, the answer lies in the various networks of knowledge and information that we have created for ourselves.

I would argue that the average person would recognize the LGBTQ+ community as a marginalized one, both in America and across the world. Furthermore, I would argue that said person would know that the rainbow flag is used to represent this community. Furthermore, when this flag is flown high or made visible, it also represents one’s pride in identifying as a member or ally of the LGBTQ+ community.

However, not everyone is so open towards and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, and many people act on their feelings of hatred. Such hatred can manifest itself as the use of a derogatory slur, acting violently towards a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or even burning a rainbow flag.

By combining these two images, the flying high of the rainbow flag that represents pride and a burnt rainbow flag that represents wanting to destroy that pride and attack the community it represents, a whole new depth of meaning is created. More specifically, the image communicates an enormous amount of strength and an incredible resilience on the part of the LGBTQ+ community; it tells viewers that no matter how much suffering, discrimination, and hatred they may have to face, the LGBTQ+ community will continue to have pride in itself; it informs people that members of the LGBTQ+ community are not going to stand up in the face of a discriminatory society only when it’s easiest; it declares to the world that no matter what others may do, LGBTQ+ identified people are not going anywhere. They are here, as they always have and will be, and refuse to be shoved into the dark corners of society.

Breaking the Bubble

Because I get so many emails everyday but have so little time to read them, I have to prioritize which emails I open. To determine which emails are the most relevant, important, and/or interesting to me, I rely on the subject lines of the emails. If the subject of the email doesn’t immediately strike me as something that possibly holds some value for me, I will put off reading the email until I have more time on my hands.

However, recently the subject line of an email caught my eye, not because I felt the email it was prefacing was of significant importance to me, but because I thought it was an interesting sentence. It read:

“Break the Georgetown Bubble with a Course Downtown at the CALL in Fall 2019!”

This sentence, I’d argue, is not hard to understand. It is clearly conveying the message that you (the reader) should get out of Georgetown by taking a course in Downtown D.C. next semester.

I, however, would like to analyze key aspects of this sentence that help produce the overall meaning.

I want to first focus on the word “break.” On it’s own, “break” can mean several different things, both as a noun and as a verb. However, by placing the word directly in front of an object, and it being the only possible action word in the sentence, we know that it is acting as a verb in this case. Additionally, because this object is “the Georgetown Bubble,” rather than “the law” or “a record,” we know that it is acting as a verb meaning something along the lines of bursting the object, which in turn implies venturing freely outside.

But by putting “Georgetown Bubble” in relation with “break,” a word that signifies in a sense the end of the existence of said bubble, in an imperative sentence, it gives “the Georgetown Bubble” a more negative connotation in this context. This is, of course, despite the fact that a bubble can have both a positive connotation (as something that protects) and a negative connotation (as something that isolates).

Lastly, I want to draw attention to the word “CALL.” Although this word has the same spelling as the word that refers to the act of reaching out and speaking to another person and to the form of communication resulting from using a telephone, we know that it does not refer to either of these two things in this sentence. First, we know it is not acting as a verb here due to the fact that it is preceded by a noun marker (“the”). Furthermore, the fact that the entire word is capitalized, despite all the other words having at most one capitalized letter, signals to us that it is not referring to telephone calls. We thus unconsciously deduce that this word is an acronym that is being used in place of the longer/full version of the name of this thing.

While some may argue that doing brief analyses/reflections like these are somewhat useless since we all understand the meaning of the sentence without all this analysis, I do think that it is important to occasionally step back and think about what we always do tacitly: finding meaning in things.

This is the image that was included in the email that provides what “CALL” actually stands for.

Effective Beauty

I’ll admit it: I’m a beauty junkie. I have more makeup and skincare products than I could ever use in any reasonable time frame, and yet the list of products that I want to buy seems to be forever growing.

But as a result of owning so many different products, I also have a lot of boxes and other types of packaging from these products, which all advertise the great benefits and innovative technology that the products possess and utilize.

The one that I most recently came back across was a box from one of my BB cushions (which, for those not really interested in makeup, is something that basically helps cover blemishes and even out your skin tone). The first line of the product’s description on the box reads: “More effective two-step oil control system!”

The first thing that I noticed about this phrase was the use of the word “more.” By placing “more” directly in front of a descriptor word, people immediately understand that it is indicating that a higher degree of the adjective (“effective”) exists for the object (“two-step oil control system”). In other words, the product is not simply effective, but has a greater effectiveness than other two-step oil control systems. But what exactly are the other two-step oil control systems that the authors of this description are referring to? We don’t know, but that was probably an intentional move by the authors. For their purpose of trying to market and appeal their product to customers, it is not necessary to know what exactly their product is being compared to. (In fact, listing the names of competing products can even be disadvantageous.) The most important thing, the thing that will have the most impact and help attract customers, is the simple knowledge that it is “more” than something else.

Additionally, I believe the choice to use an exclamation point rather than a period is significant. Rather than simply stating information and allowing readers to interpret and understand it as they wish, the authors make the fact that their product is more effective seem like something everyone should be excited about by using an exclamation point. This more positive, rather than neutral, rendering of the phrase again helps further the author’s purpose of making their product appeal to customers because the average shopper will be more inclined to purchase something that they are excited about and view favorably.

In sum, this phrase conveys an arguably simply and straightforward meaning: their product is more effective than other similar products. However, this meaning is conveyed in a way that will most effectively help persuade buyers to purchase the product.

Little Actions, Great Love

Whenever I am having a hard time, all I have to do is read the row of sticky notes I have displayed on the cork-board of my desk. Each of these post-its has a phrase written on it that reminds me of some of the most important truths in my life and that helps me refocus my perspective on life.

One of the quotes I have stuck up on this wall is the one I used as my senior quote in high school: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” –Mother Teresa

I have always loved this quote because I feel that it articulates very beautifully the way in which I hope to go about living my life. However, I also find it very interesting from a structural point of view.

The first key point that helps convey the meaning of this quote is the use of “great” in the first clause. “Great” on its own can mean several different things; however, by using it as a descriptor and also linking it to the word “small” in the next clause with a contrasting conjunction (“but”), it is made clear that in this context, “great” means something big and magnificent.

Having made this meaning clear through the structuring of the sentence, it is then easily understood that the repetition of “great” as a descriptor towards the end of the sentence is also referring to something of a large magnitude. However, by using the same meaning of “great” to describe two different nouns–“things” and “love”–the message is conveyed that everyone has the potential for “greatness” in some sense; it is just a matter of whether we attempt to focus on making the action itself great or the amount of love that is put into the action.

Another key point is the use of the first person plural (“not all of us” and “we”) as opposed to the third person. By choosing to utilize this point of view, it makes the statement seem to be much more personal, something that is true of everyone. This then reminds people that Mother Teresa, someone who can very easily be regarded by some as an example of someone who has accomplished extraordinary actions, is actually an example of someone who has accomplished putting an extraordinary amount of love into her actions.

#ToImmigrantsWithLove

Lately, whenever I walk around certain parts of campus, I see the words, “#ToImmigrantsWithLove Clothing Drive” plastered on the walls, and the more that I have seen this phrase, the more I have started to think about the “#ToImmigrantsWithLove” portion of it.

From a grammatical point of view, this phrase makes no sense since it is just two prepositional phrases put together–there is no subject or verb, the basic building blocks of a sentence. However, within the context of a culture in which it is far from unusual to begin a piece of correspondence with “to” and end it with “with love,” it is quite easy for people to recognize that this phrase is utilizing parts of the format of a letter/postcard/email/etc. But by incorporating only the very beginning and ending phrases, rather than some sort of “main message” slogan or phrase, it is implied that there is so much more that wants to be said, that there are so many personal and heartfelt messages for immigrants that want to be, and are being, voiced. In this case, donating gently used clothes embodies everything that the people involved want to convey.

This then moves me to my next point: the hashtag. The decision to use a hashtag gives the phrase another layer of meaning because it indicates that this phrase is representative of a larger movement/campaign with an online presence, and is thus something for everyone to participate in, or simply just see.

However, the creation and advertising of this phrase as a hashtag is also indicative of the fact that this movement finds its roots, or is mostly driven by, the younger generations. This is because the hashtag has only really become prevalent in recent history, and thus only those who have been very active or involved with modern technology/ the Internet will truly understand what the hashtag represents. Unsurprisingly, this group primarily consists of people from younger generations. Therefore, the mere existence of this hashtag, but also the marketing of this hashtag, only leads to the conclusion that it is younger, more plugged-in people at the helm of this very worthy campaign.

However, I sincerely hope that we do not get so dialed into the details that we forget what this movement aims to do at a macro-level: to not only acknowledge the common humanity in a marginalized community, but also work to counter the arguably dominant narrative that immigrants are unworthy, unwanted, and unloved, particularly here in America.

Here’s a #ToImmigrantsWithLove message from Constance Wu, the daughter of two immigrants.

#LT4

During the summer before my senior year in high school, I went on a four day overnight retreat called Kairos. When I was boarding the bus that would take us to the retreat center, I honestly did not know what to expect–but I’m glad that I didn’t. Because I entered the retreat with no preconceived ideas or expectations, I believe I was really able to feel the full impact of the retreat and get the most out of it. In fact, I was so moved by everything that I had experience during those four days that I decided to dedicate a large portion of my senior year to helping prepare and lead other Kairos retreats.

One phrase that is closely associated with Kairos is “Live the Fourth.” As one can see from the structure of the phrase, it is a command; but a command to do what exactly? Well, due to the (very necessary!) secretive nature of Kairos, I can’t really say. Sorry.

But what I can say is that this phrase has a general meaning that holds true for everyone, but also a specific meaning unique to each individual person. However, the creation of these two meanings from one phrase is only possible due to the utilization of “the Fourth,” a very general word that can stand for a plethora of things, in the phrase rather than something more explicit. But I believe that the fact that the structure of this phrase allows for different meanings to coexist is what makes the phrase all the more beautiful.

I have a very similar cross to the one above and it serves as my personal reminder to “Live the Fourth.”

So Maybe It’s Okay I Don’t Know

Jon Bellion’s “Maybe IDK” is an amazing song that holds a very special place in my heart.

And while I do love the song in its entirety, the chorus of the song always stands out to me the most. It goes like this:

“So maybe I don’t know, maybe I don’t know
Maybe I don’t know, maybe I don’t know
But maybe that’s okay
Maybe that’s okay, maybe that’s okay
Maybe I don’t know, maybe I don’t know
But maybe that’s okay”

As can be seen above, this chorus is structured mainly through repetition, but I believe that all this repetition is an intentional and effective move to create a deeper meaning than simply “maybe it’s okay if I don’t know something.”

At the beginning of the chorus, “maybe I don’t know” is repeated four times, which emphasizes all the things he is continually wondering about in the preceding verse. At large, however, I believe that this both represents and highlights the fact that people more often than not focus on everything that they don’t know, whether it be why things are the way they are, why they are even here, or what lies ahead in the future.

Following these four repetitions of “maybe I don’t know” are three repetitions of “maybe that’s okay,” which I interpret as a representation of the realization that it’s okay to not know everything, that, in fact, we are not suppose to know everything there is to know. Rather, people must have faith in the idea that there is a purpose or reason for everything.

By then choosing to end the chorus with another, shorter version of the “maybe I don’t know but maybe that’s okay” pattern, it is almost as if Bellion is trying to reaffirm, either for the audience, himself, or both, what exactly it is that he has just figured out.

In sum, then, Jon Bellion’s chorus in “Maybe IDK” conveys that it is indeed okay and perfectly normal to not know everything, but does so in a way that simultaneously represents the mental process one goes through in order to fully arrive at this belief.

You can listen to the song for yourself here!

Pixar’s “Bao”

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43749225

A couple days ago, I came across a post from NextShark, an account I follow on Instagram that posts “Global Asian News.” This particular post (which can be found here) regarded Pixar’s short film “Bao,” which has recently been named a nominee for the 2019 Oscar’s Best Short Film Award.

After seeing this post, I was suddenly reminded of just how heart-wrenching and real this film felt to me when I first watched it a couple months ago. To me, it was undoubtedly a powerful masterpiece. Thus, I was beyond thrilled to hear this news.

However, as I continued to read the post’s caption, one part stood out to me in particular.

After discussing the overwhelmingly positive response from Asian American (and Asian Canadian, from what I have seen on various social media platforms) viewers, it states, “However, other viewers–many of whom were White–found it ‘confusing.'”

While inserting the phrase “many of whom are White” was more likely than not simply an attempt to provide additional details, the fact that the author of this caption chose to insert it using dashes rather than commas has an impact on the meaning of the sentence, not just the form of it.

By physically distancing these words from the rest of the sentence, the words themselves are not only emphasized but the idea that those words represent is as well: namely, whiteness.

I believe this distinction and emphasis of “white” rather than, say, “non-Asian,” gives the sentence a deeper level of meaning because it somehow helps better situate it in or connect it to the history of Asians in the Western world.

Western Orientalist ideology has existed in one form or another since the colonial-era, and crucial to this ideology was a power dynamic in which white Westerns were fundamentally superior to Asians. From this, perceptions that Asians were inherently exotic and different from Westerners arose, and it is these exact perceptions that still exist in some capacity today.

Thus, with this in mind, it is not as difficult to understand why some white people find a film that draws on Asian experiences and culture “confusing” or too different from what they know to understand.

However, this is obviously by no means a declaration that the film is in fact too “confusing” for non-Asians to understand. I wholeheartedly believe that, while some of the cultural nuances and details of the story may be unfamiliar to some, the film’s main themes of motherhood, loneliness, and reconciliation are universally understood. I think it is simply the lingering remnants of Orientalism in some people’s subconscious that has prevented them from being able to truly appreciate this masterpiece.

A Feminist’s Battle Cry

This past Saturday was the 2019 Women’s March, and between attending the march myself and seeing pictures my friends have posted online from various marches across the country, I have seen my fair share of very creative and impactful posters.

A popular feminist slogan to use for such posters is “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-damental (Human) Rights.”

Source: http://streetfotografy.com/wordpress/girls-just-wanna-fundamental-human-rights/
Source: https://almagottlieb.com/2017/03/an-anthropologist-at-the-womens-march-on-washington-part-2-the-posters/poster-girls-just-wanna-have-fundamental-rights/

However, it can also be found written on a plethora of other items, as seen below:

Source: https://www.omaze.com/made/girls-just-want-to-have-fundamental-rights-2

Source: https://www.etsy.com/listing/246866613/girls-just-wanna-have-fundamental-rights
Source: https://www.customon.com/product/girls-just-wanna-have-fundamental-rights-iphone-6-6s-case-582737

However, it is not such an iconic feminist phrase simply due to the fact that it states that women demand fundamental rights. Rather, it is due to the much deeper level of meaning that it carries.

Upon reading this phrase, most people will immediately recognize that it is alluding to the hit song, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” Furthermore, people will think of the Cyndi Lauper version of it. However, the song was actually written and originally sung by Robert Hazard from a male point of view. By reworking the song to fit her own perspective, Lauper explains that it was a means to state “that girls want to have the same damn experience that any man could have” (Green), a thought that was undoubtedly the result of an earlier form of feminism.

Thus, by choosing to employ words that reference this song, the phrase “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-damental (Human) Rights” is effectively given meaning that goes beyond simply demanding gender equality in the present; it communicates a long history of resistance against a system that has oppressed women and in turn also displays how feminism has evolved over time. But most importantly, it is representative of the fact that feminism is not going anywhere until the goal of gender equality is achieved.

Works Cited:

Green, Emma. “The Feisty Feminism of ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun,’ 30 Years Later.” The Atlantic, The Atlantic Monthly Group, 1 Apr. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/04/the-feisty-feminism-of-girls-just-want-to-have-fun-30-years-later/359834/. Accessed 20 Jan. 2019.