Reflections on life under quarantine...
thursday, apr 16, 2020
Life is exhausting right now, in so many ways. Why do I choose to make it worse by staying up until 3:00 in the morning?
In other news, I finished Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and it's... really, really good. Consistently reading books is a fairly recent development for me, so I'm not very good at talking about them, but it's got a lot of really fascinating things to say about how we view the distinction between reality and imitation. I haven't picked up on them all yet, but the book just gets better and more rewarding the more I think about it, which is always a great feeling.
Technically, Blade Runner is an adaptation of it, but the two are so different in their strengths and storylines that it feels wrong to engage in the whole "book vs. movie" debate. They're both great in their own ways.
wednesday, apr 15, 2020
Today, our English teacher officially cancelled this assignment, meaning all of this was pointless. I'm not particularly upset about it, though, since I'm not sure I was ever doing this for a grade anyway. I think I'll continue it until quarantine ends, or until my 100th blog post — whichever comes first. I don't think this blog will change much, anyway. Maybe it'll get just a little bit edgier.
Zoom meetings / online classes are horribly tedious and more than a little depressing. On the off chance any of my teachers are reading this: sorry! It's not your fault. I've noticed it while talking with other people for non-class purposes, too, although not to the same degree; communication over Zoom or Discord or anything that isn't face-to-face conversation feels unfulfilling, almost like a chore more than anything. After the novelty of online classes wore off and I ran out of stupid things jokes to play in them, they've become a soulless husk of an actual class experience, removing most good things about going to school. I haven't really discussed this subject with anyone else, but even then I suspect most people agree with me. Classroom banter is waning by the day. All my meetings today were more awkward silence than anything else, which would be tolerable in an actual classroom, but in a video call, every silence is awkward. It's all so draining.
tuesday, apr 14, 2020
Bad news! Remember how I went I went to sleep at around 5:00 in the morning yesterday? I actually woke up at 7:00, two hours later, and couldn't go back to sleep. I've been running on two hours of sleep and a LOT of caffeine all day. After I finish this blog post, I will collapse onto my bed and remain unconscious for the next 48 hours.
It's been a month since quarantine started, officially. Weird. Hard to imagine that I was convinced we'd come back after spring break at some point. This has been one strange year.
monday, apr 13, 2020
It has been one day since the end of spring break. It's 3:40 AM and I am still up. It seems that I have already sunken back into my more unfortunate sleeping habits.
I'm not writing anything else today. Please let me go to sleep.
sunday, apr 12, 2020
Today is the last day of spring break. Surprisingly, I find that I'm a lot more disappointed about this than I expected to be a week ago. "Spring break" actually does feel markedly different from the couple of weeks leading up to it. I suppose that's not shocking, given that I have almost no work to do right now and I did last week, but it still feels odd. Isn't my daily experience basically the same? Maybe it's because of my failed attempt to become nocturnal.
Today is also Easter. Usually, everyone on my street gets together on Easter and we have a big potluck in the morning and an egg hunt for the kids. We're not having it this year, of course. That's a shame, I was looking forward to eating an unhealthy amount of deviled eggs this year.
saturday, apr 11, 2020
I think I should go on more walks. I've been mostly sedentary this quarantine, and it's both unhealthy and depressing. I hate wearing a mask to go outside, though.
On the note of health, though, I've been losing weight really rapidly over quarantine, and I'm not sure why. I think, as of this morning, that I've lost more than 10 pounds since quarantine started. Maybe I'm just less motivated to eat when I'm sitting in the same place all day and I don't have a packed lunch with me. Or maybe I have a tapeworm. Who knows?
I'm beginning to slowly adjust back to a normal sleeping schedule. It was fun while it lasted.
friday, apr 10, 2020
Not much to report. I'm still sad about my granddad. I don't think I've ever lost any relative or friend before, at least not when I was old enough to remember, so grief is very new to me.
Spring break feels like it started an eternity ago. I'm not excited at all to return to online classes. A sentiment I've been hearing among many of my friends, and one that I definitely share myself, is that they're beginning to miss school — real school, not the Zoom meetings. Thinking about it, it really is a blessing to be able to see your friends five days a week regularly. I miss my friends.
thursday, apr 9, 2020
I wasn't sure whether or not to write about this here. Certain things seem too personal to put on a silly school project blog with an outdated design. But in the end, I decided it's something worth sharing with others, to show appreciation for a great man.
My grandfather passed away last night. He's had health issues for a while now, but the news is still shocking. It's strange to think of a world without him.
We visit him and my grandmother every summer, and call them nearly every week. In fact, I was just saying hello to him last week over Skype. He seemed so genuinely excited to see us all. He always was. Still, I wish I knew him better than I already did. He never spoke English, and I don't speak his language, and so we've never been able to have a real conversation that wasn't through my mom translating; I've always felt mildly ashamed of my inability to speak with my relatives on my mom's side, and that shame is only exacerbated by this news.
But, you know what? He led a rich, full life. My granddad, Valcho was famous in his country, and in some way, it's been immensely comforting to read the dozens of news articles, Facebook posts, and comments about him — he impacted tens of thousands of lives all across his country, and his life and legacy won't be forgotten. He managed to live his passions to a level many of us can only dream of, and for that, I'm proud of him.
Despite the language barrier, his warmth always came through when you saw him. When I think of him, it's hard to imagine him not smiling. He was always happy. And, of course, he loved me and my brother deeply; I've read some uncountable number of interviews about him today, and in every one, he always took the time to mention us. The first time I read an article and found a picture of me at the bottom, it crushed me. The world is a little bit lonelier and less friendly without him.
The next couple of weeks won't be easy. For obvious reasons, it'll be a couple months before we can have a memorial service for him. I just hope my mom is holding up alright. It's already been such a stressful time for everyone, and I can't imagine how she feels right now.
Rest in peace.
edit: changed some details to protect my privacy
wednesday, apr 8, 2020
I miss people.
If there's one good thing to come out of the past month for me personally, it's helped me realize how integral the people I talk with are to not only my sanity, but my very sense of self. Not seeing other human beings has made me bored, sure, but more than that, it's made me paranoid, and confused, and incomplete on some fundamental level. We really are social beings — or, at the very least, I know I am. I hate this.
I've always feared that I don't have any truly meaningful connections with others. Superficiality is a terrifying concept. Sure, I have friends, but are my friendships more than skin-deep? For that reason, I'm happy to say that I think my relations with others genuinely do hold a special place in some part of me that has been deeply shaken by this period of isolation. It's a refreshing thought in a time without many of them.
I hope this post doesn't come off as too egotistical. I've become very self-conscious of my complaining about the more trivial aspects of quarantine. It's important to remind ourselves that people are dying. This situation is less than ideal, but it's better than the alternative. My heart goes out to anyone dealing with the virus, unemployment or other financial woes brought on by the quarantine, or really just anything more significant than my self-important teenage whining.
On another note, I don't think I'll be nocturnal for much longer. Staying up all night is fun, but as soon as it's light out again, it only becomes mildly depressing. I'll probably revert back to a normal sleep schedule at the end of spring break.
tuesday, apr 7, 2020
Today, I watched an old Russian movie called Stalker.
Stalker is a lot of things. It's dense as hell, for one. It's slow, and demanding, and exhausting. At its core, it's boring, in the most literal sense of the word — practically nothing happens, other than a couple of middle aged men wandering through the wilderness and having long philosophical conversations. More than anything else, it's about the human experience on some profound level that I will confess to be mostly beyond me.
I don't really "get" it. I'm not sure I'll ever fully get it. What I do get from it is really thought-provoking stuff; I can't say I've ever struggled much with faith in a higher power, as someone who's held atheistic beliefs for as long as I can remember, but Stalker has gotten me to seriously consider my relationship with religion more than most things in my life. From what I can understand, the movie is essentially an allegory for religion, with the three main characters representing three ways of understanding humanity: faith, art, and science.
It's a beautiful movie, even ignoring the philosophy part of it. The mysterious supernatural area where the movie takes place, known only as "The Zone", is probably one of my favorite settings for a movie ever, both visually and conceptually.
I wanted to write more here, but thinking about this movie for too long gives me a headache. Still, I would really like to one day be able to wrap my head around it. Watching it, it felt like it was bigger than me, like I wasn't meant to fully understand it, but it has some obvious great significance. Regardless, it reminds me of why I love art.
We're now standing at the threshold. This is the most important moment in your life.
monday, apr 6, 2020
Today was the first day in my transition to a nocturnal life that I stayed up until sunrise.
As far as I see it, if you pit sunrise and sunset against each other, sunrise easily wins. There's an extra layer of serenity at sunrise. Part of that is merely the fact that less people are awake at the time of sunrise, but also I think that somehow, the visual effect of the night sky making way for the day is a lot more awe-inspiring than vice versa.
sunday, apr 5, 2020
I can't think of much to write today.
I've been rewatching Breaking Bad. It's still good.
I've gotten back on a somewhat consistent reading schedule. Right now I'm a little over halfway through Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick, and it's very good so far. I'll write a more in-depth blog post about it once I finish it. In the meantime, I made a Goodreads account, which you can follow if you're some kind of nerd who likes books.
I've been raiding the house for candles to use in my room. I'm a candle person now, I've decided. My room smells vaguely of mint.
saturday, apr 4, 2020
I'm writing this at 3:00 AM (technically it's Sunday, not Saturday, but oh well). I plan to go to sleep in a couple hours. So far, being nocturnal has been fun.
There are a couple reasons why I decided to turn nocturnal, but one of the bigger ones is just so I have a few hours where I can be alone. My ability to function in the world around me depends on getting the right balance of social interaction and solitude, and quarantine has severely restricted opportunites for the latter. Nothing against my family, but spending 14 hours a day in close proximity with the same people for months on end is enough to drive me insane. I don't want to tell them to leave me alone for a few hours a day, and that's sort of an unsustainable arrangement when you all live in the same house anyway, so I figured staying awake while everyone else was asleep would be the next best thing.
That's not the only reason I'm staying up at night, of course. Staying up later to attend my online classes is significantly easier than waking up early for them. I prefer watching TV when it's dark out, otherwise the glare makes the screen hard to see. I just really love the peace of night time.
It'll be nice to have a change of pace, and this is quite possibly the only opportunity I'll have to try this out, at least for a long time. We'll see how it goes.
friday, apr 3, 2020
As expected, the first day of spring break was not all that different from the day before it. I spent most of the day watching TV, and I don't feel great about that.
I finally watched The Shining. It's interesting, watching a movie so ingrained in the public consciousness for the first time. I, like most people, was somewhat familiar with a lot of the movie's most famous images (e.g. the shots of the hotel hallway, the creepy twins, "here's Johnny!"), along with the basic idea of the plot. Despite my familiarity with so much of the movie, though, it transcends all of those trivial soundbites and pop culture imagery. I'm happy to say that it completely lived up to its immense, impossible level of prestige. It really is a magnificent work of art.
In general, I find that I'm especially attracted to really overwhelming, awe-inspiring sensory or emotional experiences in art. It's why most of my favorite movies are my favorite movies, and it's precisely why I loved The Shining so much. The climax is genuinely stunning, like the crashing crescendo of a two-hour-long horror movie symphony. Speaking of which, I love the soundtrack, and especially how it plays for almost the entirety of the movie, so it really does feel like a long visual symphony.
It's seriously such a wonderful movie. Watch it if you have a couple hours to spare and you want to fill in a gap in your pop culture knowledge.
thursday, apr 2, 2020
Tomorrow is the first day of "spring break", if you can call it that. It'll be nice to have less work for a little while.
I've been thinking that this quarantine is the perfect opportunity to change up my room, which at the moment feels somewhat plain. I was planning on buying some wall hangers for my guitars, as right now they're hidden in the closet or under my bed, which is most definitely not cool. My bookshelf is also in my closet, and I'm considering moving it into my room, although I don't know where it would fit. I'm definitely getting curtains that block out light as soon as possible; my room is right next to the street and my curtains are half-transparent, which has always been an uncomfortable situation. If I manage to save up enough, I might even get myself a pair of decent speakers to put on top of my dresser. It would be fun having an audio system in here.
Of course, it's entirely possible that I end up forgetting about all this in a week and put my mind to some other task. That happens to a lot of my ideas.
wednesday, apr 1, 2020
Quarantine is getting to me. Today, I decided that I would take up baking. I don't think I've ever baked a single thing before, but I found a madeleine pan lying in the very back of the cabinet for some reason, and decided I would spend the next hour making madeleines. They turned out well, if a little overcooked.
School has officially been cancelled for the rest of the school year, and more and more colleges are loosening their SAT and GPA requirements for the class of 2021. This year of high school has been built up for me as some sort of Moment Of Truth for so long, and now it all seems kind of pointless. What do I do now?
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pretty disappointed about all this. Until now, this school year has been probably my best so far, academics-wise, and now it feels like it's come at the worst possible time. Despite all that, though, I think it'll be good as a sort of wake-up call. I hate thinking about grades, SAT scores and all that other exhausting college prep stuff. I hate feeling like my worth as a person has been reduced to a set of numbers and the checklist of meaningless statistics and "accomplishments" I can put on a college application. And most of all, I hate the high school environment that treats the entirety of your teenage years as one long test run for college. I'd like to go to college, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm studying in high school so that I can go into debt for college, and I need to go to college so that I can get a good job and pay off the debt from going to college. In that way, this semester could be a breath of fresh air; 3 months of high school where college prep is totally out of the picture.
tuesday, mar 31, 2020
Today is the last day of what has been one of the more eventful months in my life, behind maybe November 2016.
I've been going to sleep later and later. Last night, I went to bed at around 3:00 AM and woke up at noon. It's probably not very good for me, but I like the peace and quiet of the night hours. When it's late enough, reality itself feels strange, as if time is going at a different speed. I love that feeling.
On another note, I miss real life interaction with my friends. Talking over text and calling each other is fine, but it doesn't fully fill the gap. I don't mean to be selfish, and I understand that it's all necessary to avoid unnecessary deaths, but it's taken a sizeable toll on my mental health. I've never been the most social person, but that's been by far the worst part of quarantine for me, so far.
monday, mar 30, 2020
Not a particularly exciting day, but I started reading books again, for the first time in a couple weeks. It's definitely better than lying in bed and doing nothing all day. Small steps at a time.
I do wonder how the pandemic will be viewed by historians, or, more importantly, by the public, in a couple decades. I know that I wrote last week that this pandemic feels like a generation-defining event, but it's difficult to fully know the scope of an event while you're living it. I think that I got a little too carried away in that post; I'm sure this will all be seen as important in a couple decades, but I don't know if it'll be generation-defining. It's not like the average person thinks of the Spanish Flu as one of the most important developments of the 20th century.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
sunday, mar 29, 2020
I've been thinking of shifting to sleeping during the day and staying awake during the night. It's probably the best time to try, and I'm curious (plus, the extra alone time might be nice).
Maybe I should start cooking more often. I like cooking when I do it, but I always get intimidated by stuff that requires a lot of ingredients or time. I tell myself every couple months that I'm going to try cooking a new thing every weekend, and it's never worked out, due to lack of time, or laziness, or both. Let's see if I actually go through with it this time. Probably not, but I can dream.
I watched Invasion of the Body Snatchers for film class (both the 1956 original and the 1976 remake, because why not), and they were fun. Old horror movies are usually a good time.
saturday, mar 28, 2020
This is the water, and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.
I finally finished Twin Peaks, after like... a year. In my defense, I took pretty long breaks between seasons, and season 3 is so weighty and just insane that it felt wrong to binge it.
I wish there was more TV like The Return (for the uninitiated, season 3 of Twin Peaks is called Twin Peaks: The Return, and came out 25 years after the second season). I don't think I'd say it's my favorite show or anything, but it feels daring and unafraid to be bizarre, unforgiving, and totally, unabashedly incomprehensible. It's hard to really put the full extent of its insanity into words, but trust me when I say it is completely unlike any television show you have ever watched. I definitely don't get it, and it could test my patience a little in the middle, but by the end its intentions are just a little bit clearer, and I've managed to realize how much of a beautiful, near-spiritual experience Twin Peaks: The Return is. At its best, watching it genuinely feels otherworldly, like the show exists on some entirely different plane of existence. It somehow manages to be both total nonsense and one of the more meaningful artistic products humanity has generated.
My dad watched part of the finale with me, since he happened to be on the couch at the time, and all he had to say was "This show is so f**king weird".
We live inside a dream.
friday, mar 27, 2020
I cannot trust myself with free time. I have spent the entire day mindlessly scrolling through things I don't really care about. My brain has turned into a fine paste. Nothing is fun anymore. At this rate, by next week I will be totally catatonic.
Someone on my contact form asks:
can u share ur avocado toast recipe
I don't really have a set recipe, but here are some various versions of my avocado toast:
- Make sure you mash your avocadoes beforehand. Much better than putting whole slices on your toast.
- You can either toast your bread just in a toaster, or, if you're feeling fancy, in a pan with some olive oil.
- Plain avocado toast by itself is always good. Sometimes I like to just put a little bit of the everything bagel seasoning Trader Joe's sells on top.
- A nice breakfast-y variant of avocado toast is to put cheese (I like mozarella but cheddar would work too, I think) and an omelette on top, then bake it in the oven for a couple minutes to melt the cheese. When you make the omelette, make sure to salt your beaten eggs beforehand, and leave them out for 5 minutes before cooking. I forget where I read it but I think it breaks down the protein structure and makes the omelette less rubber-y.
- Smoked salmon/lox also works great with avocado toast (or, preferably, an avocado bagel).
- Rub a raw garlic clove on your toast before you add anything else. Garlic toast.
I have a habit of sleeping in on school days, so I had forgotten what breakfast tastes like until these past few weeks. I think I've been buying like 5 avocadoes a week to satiate my great avocado hunger. Avocado toast is my only comfort in these trying times.
thursday, mar 26, 2020
I did well on my SAT, which is cool. I still have no idea what I want to do with my life, and I don't really know where I want to go, but I (hopefully) won't ever have to take the SAT again, which I can't complain about. It's nice having a safety net.
Not really much else to report. Coronavirus is still frightening, but quarantine is getting mundane. I was hungry today and ordered some pho. It was good.
wednesday, mar 25, 2020
I got my driver's permit today, although it's technically useless as long as behind-the-wheel courses are all unavailable (you need to take one of those to activate it). The DMV was near-empty, probably one of the more pleasant experiences I'll ever have there.
There's a lot to love about living in LA, but sometimes I hate how driving-centered it is. I feel like I've been waiting my whole life to be able to drive. Until then, life is inconvenient.
Send me a question or comment on my contact page if you have time, I need ideas for blog posts.
tuesday, mar 24, 2020
The scariness of this whole situation is setting in. I spent a good part of the day looking at graphs and reading articles about the spread of COVID-19, and it's been pretty sobering. I feel like next week will be a rude awakening for many—new cases are already coming in at a terrifying rate, and those numbers are 10 or so days behind.
On that note, it's kind of strange to hear people joke about the pandemic. Not that it's wrong to find humor in a bad situation, but all I can do is picture it from the context of people 100 years from now. I don't think this is the end of the world, but if it is, it says a lot about human nature that our reaction to the apocalypse is jokes about how annoying quarantine is. I guess it's just surreal that this is all actually happening. I hear people talk about quarantine or empty stores or "social distancing" on a daily basis, and it always takes me aback. Is this real? Am I actually living through this? Maybe this is Gen Z's defining event, like how Baby Boomers had Vietnam and Millenials (or Gen X?) had 9/11. I wouldn't be surprised if the next few months spark a new counterculture. If we live through this, it might lead to some cool art.
As for the non-coronavirus parts of life, my life is slowly but surely becoming bearable again. I've had more time to lie around and do nothing, which is always a good thing. I've been meaning to read and practice guitar more but somehow I haven't found the time. I think my brain is still adjusting to this whole thing right now and I don't have the attention span to do anything substantial.
I don't mean for this blog to be too quarantine-focused. Obviously, that's the dominant force in my life right now, but I figure talking about it for weeks on end will get boring. I think as routine settles in and quarantine becomes less exciting, I'll probably write more stream-of-consciousness stuff about whatever I'm reading or listening to or thinking about.
Wash your hands.
monday, mar 23, 2020
I've been home from school for over a week now. Not really a fan of this whole chain of events.
Society is breaking down and so is my brain. Time has slowed to a crawl. The city is refreshingly and kind of terrifyingly quiet. You never realize how big a difference the constant background hum of traffic makes in your life until it's not there, I suppose.
I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but somehow this past week has been one of the busiest times of my life. I've been working on something or other from morning to night. It's probably not healthy and I feel like at some point my brain is going to pop like a balloon. Hopefully things calm down a little so I can be a person again.
Making this website has been fun, and probably the only really fun thing I've done all week. The concept and design for this blog was originally a joke, but after going through a truly ridiculous amount of GeoCities sites and other various shining monuments of '90s web design for inspiration, I've grown attached to them. There's a sort of charm to the ugliness of it all - part of me wishes I was alive during this era of the internet, when having a website was in itself such a novelty that thousands of people rushed to claim their own little piece of the web, coated in a palette of garish web-safe colors and low-resolution GIFs of cartoon characters and skeletons.
One of the websites I took a lot of inspiration was Cameron's World, which is a collage of assets, text, and general aesthetics scraped from the ruins of GeoCities. It's incredibly impressive and I encourage you to take 5 minutes and scroll through the whole thing, taking in the sheer loving detail put into everything. I'll end my first blogpost with a quote from the message contained at the end of the site that really struck me:
In an age where we interact primarily with branded and marketed web content, Cameron’s World is a tribute to the lost days of unrefined self-expression on the Internet. This project recalls the visual aesthetics from an era when it was expected that personal spaces would always be under construction.
Staying at home for a couple months isn't going to be fun, but getting coronavirus is probably worse. Stay safe, everyone.