What is more important for superhero characters: their status as icons, or their status as commodities?

What is more important for superhero characters: their status as icons, or their status as commodities?

avengers_banner_by_jlonnett-d4293sj

This question was asked in the GEH1067 module, iteration AY17/18 Sem 2 under Dr Ian Gordon.


What is more important for superhero characters: their status as icons, or their status as commodities?
The question asked suggests that there is a binary, that superheroes have to be seen either as icons or as commodities. Much of the discussion and scholarship suggests, complete with examples, that they can never be one without the other. Having taken all that into account, I would argue that superheroes will be icons only in certain contexts and time periods but they will be commodities all the time. Furthermore, their statuses as icons in a particular time allows those who make them commodities to use them. For this essay I define icons as persons worthy of veneration and characters as persons in plays, novels or films.

To begin with, Bart Beaty discusses the need for ‘audience strategies’. This suggests that audiences are connected to the characters and to each other through their shared love for the characters. They view these characters as icons, declare their adoration for these icons and through their participation in these profit-making ventures, allow for these characters to be commodified for them. Examples include the creation of the cinematic universe (Beaty 319, 321) where audiences find affinities with characters through narratives like the Iron Man, and Thor origin stories as well as develop an understanding of characters’ interpersonal relationships. These stories as Beaty also suggests, have ‘easter eggs’ (322) which audiences pick up on and this helps them to connect movies together in the cinematic universe. This creation of characters as icons to the audience aids in the icons’ commodification as ‘audiences can join at any time’ and can ‘grow easily’ (Beaty 320), meaning that box office profits as well as accompanying merchandize sales would increase for the producers accordingly.

Secondly, this argument would help to explain the natural transition of superheroes from comic book medium to television and eventually to film. The creation of the cinematic universe could be even argued to have its roots in transmedial storytelling that began in the 1920s with cross-industrial collaborations (Freeman 220). Superman’s narrative was argued by Matthew Freeman to be intentionally created to be too large to stay in one medium that other mediums had to be co-opted in to assist in the production and broadcasting of it (Beaty 217). The end goal was that the profits accrued would not accrue only to one company but to many. Therefore, the creation of the ‘iconic’ narrative of Superman was eventually for the purposes of it being a commodity that was so large its outreach could be expanded immensely for consequent exponential profits.

To add on to that, some may argue that Superman is indeed iconic but I would rather posit that he was a product, a literal commodity of his time, similar to Captain America and other characters. The argument is also further emphasised when one sees that the demand of audience for characters is determined by contextual and historical problems. Superman was popular during the war because he was an icon of what America was fighting for (Freeman 220, 221-226). But he as an icon, together with the medium he was portrayed on, declined because they were only commodities. Once the war was over, the commodity of comic books as motivation was less necessary and neither was the war-time superhero. How iconic he was depended very much on whether he was useful as a commodity in that particular time. Similarly, Captain America was created at a time when the enemy fought was an ideological one, Communism. This fight was graphically portrayed in the Captain America vs Hydra clashes where the stereotypical propagators of this ideology, the ‘Russians’ were always depicted as the villains. This helped increase the popularity of the character as an icon, a bastion of democracy in contrast to Communist symbols and thereby increase demand for the movie. It also being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America functions as an icon with his own backstory as well as a character in the grander scheme of Marvel’s profit-making world.

In conclusion, the transition from comic book to television as well as the creation of a narrative world of the cinematic universes where characters were crafted and built as icons allowed audiences to gain affinities and connections with these icons and this affinity was very much based on the contexts of the time. Having audience fixed on these iconic characters allowed for the capitalist propagation of these icons as commodities. Finally, their popularity was not determined by how iconic they were but more so how much good were they as products of their time.

 

Works Cited

Bart Beaty (2016) Superhero fan service: Audience strategies in the contemporary interlinked Hollywood blockbuster, The Information Society, 32:5, 318-325,  DOI:10.1080/01972243.2016.1212616

Matthew Freeman (2014) Up, Up and Across: Superman, the Second World War and the Historical Development of Transmedia Storytelling, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 35:2, 215-239, DOI: 10.1080/01439685.2014.941564

Randy Duncan and Matthew J. Smith, eds. Icons of the American Comic Book: From Captain America to Wonder Woman. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood, 2013. Select chapters.


 

Pic credits: https://jlonnett.deviantart.com/art/Avengers-Banner-245648755
Essay grade: A+
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2017 in review

2017 in review

photo_2017-12-15_14-34-57The journey
In January I discovered I could draw watercolour stuff. That sparked a journey of art, and commissions. I realised art was a way of expression and de-stressing and thus #distressdoodles developed. As it grew, so did my confidence in my own art.
The semester had great modules, I enjoyed particularly History of Film and Renaissance. I found joy in learning, especially in History of Film. As someone not accustomed to movie watching, it seemed like a strange thing to watch all 18 Marvel movies for a paper and in the end writing on something that was not part of the whole deal, Doctor Strange. The module gave me new perspectives to research on and also made me a Marvel fan, going deep down into places where I’d never ever have gone. At the same time, Renaissance brought me back to interesting places in the past, where I found developing a certain liking to Andrew Marvell and Christopher Marlowe. It was interesting. The GEM I did sent me to DC Universe where the presentation on Arrow allowed me to watch multiple seasons of it (heh), and even Visual Culture sent me to ArtScience Museum to figure out technology and art and write about space and time. Gilby’s 2201 gave me a certain foundation in doing the things I liked, Greek mythology and Genesis/John were familiar and yet new places for exploration and understanding. I spent so much time in research in all the places I found myself satisfied and contented in. I realised I didn’t want the semester to end.
My 21st was a happy and special time where I met friends who I hadn’t seen in a while, it was a day of warm hugs and smiles and laughter. I’m always thankful for those who made it possible, the RMJ gang who went extra miles for me and my family. I pushed it up a month earlier than my actual because it was the people that mattered, not so much the date.
Work came next over the summer and it was trying for me mentally. I used photography to cope with the pain and struggles that came my way as I faced old demons and also discovered new ways to help myself instead of always relying on people to pull me out of my down state. I also figured out what I liked and what I did not like, what I liked in work environments and what I did not like. I was forced to do certain things outside my comfort zone that tested my resilience and I’m thankful to God for grace. I wouldn’t have made it through without that. I’d like to thank God also for the people who made things easier when I found things hard, for those who were bros, for making me believe in loyalty, sincerity and love again. Thank you also for those in church who taught me how to survive this period and for aunty Reb who brought me around town to eat, who accompanied me when I was a scared little child.

July was the wildest month of the year. Bayern came to Singapore, I had multiple camps, Commencement 2017 and FASS Guardians. Bayern’s trip to Singapore was one heck of a week, it was crazy, I slept minimally but I had such a blast. I think those experiences couldn’t be captured with photos, watching them live for the first time in 11 years, meeting with friends and those who also were on the same side, as well as meeting the players and legends themselves. That was really amazing. I felt like I went to Munich.

Commencement 2017 was bittersweet, I watched a whole batch of seniors that impacted my life so deeply, graduate and move on to the working world. I felt sad that they were leaving but happy that they made it out of the system finally on to paths and to things that they were happy in. Adulting is never easy and as the year continued and as the struggles continued, I’m thankful they are friends because I could be a part of their journeys and being able to be there for them sometimes made me really glad.
August opened a new semester and a new mini chapter in the book of uni life. Joining boxing and kayaking was physically and mentally a challenge for me. I started year 2 with the goal of serving and year 3 was to hand over. Looking over, I regret nothing. These two comms brought joy, and heartwarming feelings. I think it was just a special feeling to be refreshed with such sincere friends surrounding me. I looked forward to seeing them every week, they were the breaks from the mundaneness that the semester brought. The semester was tiring, the modules were exhausting and to be honest, boring, except soci theory and writing which opened a new world for me. This sem I met a prof that kinda changed my perspective on a lot of things. Two profs actually. One inspired me to try things I wouldn’t have done and encouraged me so much I started to believe that it was possible to do something I thought impossible. The other prof made me face my fears of writing and approach it with new lenses and a tad more bravery. Both of them carried me through the semester with somewhat more confidence especially at a point in university where I thought I couldn’t go on anymore.
In November I discovered Operation Broken Wing and a new world of social work x fitness. I look forward to more on this journey and I am so thankful Lionel approached me to join the team in the capacity I could 🙂

 


In short, 

here’s some thoughts on the things I tracked for myself in this year

  1. Fitness journey – I started to run this year, from not running to actually writing 5km without stopping that’s a pretty decent result. Also maintaining at 45 kg and ending the year at 45 is an achievement for me. I picked up and balanced weights and functional dynamic training alongside boxing and kayaking. I have been pretty active this year despite all that was happening so that’s really good.
  2. Confidence and mental state – I nearly lost it many times this year, it doesn’t help that it’s getting harder and harder sometimes to keep my sanity with everything that crumbles and threatens to crumble around me. But thank God for church, for His grace and for all those who kept me in check and kept checking on me to make sure I took care of myself. To all those who dropped little encouragements here and there, you are loved, you never know how your comment may have been just so needful.
  3. Discovering what I was good at and being okay with the fact that I was gonna be stuck in something I’m not good at. I think I found out I chose the wrong major. When I started a sociology module and discovered I was good at it and also I found out that I was good in factual and evaluative thinking rather than what I was currently doing, it was a bitter pill to swallow, especially knowing that I wasted time and energy and mental strength all these years to convince myself of something that I knew wasn’t meant to be. It was painful to know that what I really loved, literature, I wasn’t gonna be good in, or even do a Masters in it, possibly. But I had to learn to come to terms with the fact that sometimes life doesn’t go the way I want it to and maybe that’s what God wanted me to learn all this while.
  4. Found a family in boxing and kayaking – it is a family. I haven’t had such happiness with circles in school especially when the academic year started on a not so pleasant note. As mentioned above in the ‘Journey’ section, it’s not often after you end your day exhausted, you will still go to find a group of people and spend time with them unless they really are special. These two bunches are special and I am blessed to have met them. Conversations and HTHTs as well as learning through common experiences are things I wouldn’t have traded for anything else, and here’s to all the bonds formed and to be formed, I’m excited.
  5. Becoming a senior myself and passing on and watching other people grow – year 3  was meant to be handover year. It was in a way, in that I taught people under me, whether or not from positions of power. I realised just knowing things and being able to get them done in the most efficient way does not make you a good leader, but teaching others and empowering them to do what you can do and more, that makes you a good leader. I learnt through failure and mistakes how I can help others grow and when I see them growing and thriving and being way better than I was, I am thankful for the opportunities given to me. I want to continue to coach and to help, in any capacity and make a difference in people’s lives.
  6. Somewhere in the middle of Y3S1 I transitioned from @distressdoodles to @esthertiq. More information regarding that can be found here, but for now, I am grateful that change happened, and also I did not break as I expected to, one breakdown a semester. This semester it was plain madness, there was madness in school, at home, everywhere, but God kept me sane through His Word, His love and those around me who were there for me.
  7. Dealing with loss. I lost friends this semester, for various reasons. I didn’t know how to be okay with it, I lost a DG that met every week, I gained another, but it would never be the same. I lost certain other friends and I still grieve over those friendships. Yet I know that life happens and somethings you do not go after them because everything does have a lifespan to it and sometimes life carries you on and you got to go with it. Yet whatever it is I am always grateful for experiences and people who have shaped my life in one way or another, for better or worse, I have matured and grown.

Lastly, here’s the thank you list that I’m gonna start to do yearly
God is at the top, always. I would have never made it without His abundant grace and strength poured out for me in so many ways, more than I ever would have imagined and believed. He helped those around me, and opened my eyes to understand that as well. Thank you God for holding me through the tears, fears and joy. I am blessed to know my Saviour is there, powerful and holding my life together.
  1. Deanna – thank you for being a brain dump, an essay proof reader, a fashion consultant, a feeder, and most of all, a sister.
  2. Oli- for being by my side, for hearing all my rants, every single day, for throwing chocolates at me, for showing polar bears in my face and for warm hugs
  3. Esther Ng and Naomi – you have no idea how much you both mean to me. Esther thank you for being a partner in school with me, for lunching with me, for those MRT conversations, for being honest to my face telling me things that are hurtful yet necessary. Ohms for being there. I cannot do uni without you both.
  4. Xiuwen – baobei!!!!! You were the miracle that happened, the friend and daughter I never imagined I’d have. I am so thankful you are in pubket and marketing comm with me. Thank you for being so compatible with my work style, for being a friend over everything else, for hearing my random comments and for trusting me with life’s problems, and for aimeeeee hahaha ❤ I really love you a whole load I hope you know that.
  5. Tham – broooo, thanks for being the other half of the boxing VPs. This sem was special cause you were part of it as well. HTHTs and honest transparent convos, I can’t ask for more. Connection is real brudder (*insert bad laughter here*)
  6. Rennes Michelle Jedi – babesss, this semester was tough but I am proud of you Michyyyy, and Rennes and Jedi. It was hard on all of us individually but thank you for being there for each other, especially for Michyy, and for Mich always caring for others before yourself. Im proud of you Renn and hope you enjoy disney. Jeds this sem kinda sucked a lot and you’re tired and all but I hope next sem will get better and that you’ll smile a lot more because you deserve it.
  7. Ivan – I did an insta dedication post for you, but you were the bro that made me believe in the fitness journey, and in loyalty and friendship, especially in a critical time where I didn’t know if I could believe in it again. You made it count and picked me up when it was really hard to. Thank you once again for showing me perspectives I’d never have seen on my own.
  8. Miss Nat – thank you thank you thank you, for everything. teacher, mentor and friend :). If I make it out of university alive you’re invited to my graduation in advance.
  9. Gaomin – thank you mom for speaking truth when I don’t wanna hear it the most, for telling me to rest, for being the pause button in my existence so I breath.
  10. Erinna – I love you a lot, for warm hugs, for your honesty, for the trust and for the friendship. Your presence brightens my days very much.
  11. Yenjie – thank you for sending me home, for the HTHTs, and for always going over and beyond for the club, for ZR and for myself. I am very thankful for you, really really thankful.
  12. Derek – thank you for being proud of me.

2018 goals 

  1. I want to grow in the understanding of the Bible, in love for others, and in compassion for those who do not have what I have, I am very blessed and I want to love like I’ve been loved.
  2. #roadto50kg – weight goal
  3. #roadto21.1km – fitness/training
  4. #estherpades – for adventures out of NUS, it’s university and beyond now
What doing a pullup taught me about life

What doing a pullup taught me about life

I’m a small girl, a weak girl. But pullups taught me incredibly much about life.
  1. THINKING IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. You start by believing it is incredibly ridiculous about the thought of ever crossing the bar. You watch videos and you’re like how do people manage to yank themselves up. It’s like life. Some of the most daunting things seem impossible and for a long time they will continue to do so. You watch people do and convince yourself you cant do it, you forget that God is the one who gives you the strength to do life, to finish that essay, to reach out to that person, to make peace with that family member. The thought of trying doesn’t cross your mind because you’ve internalised how hard it will be and you can never imagine it can be done.
  2. Growing the seeds of belief. Digging yourself out of your resigned state and starting to believe you may actually be able, one day, far away but possibly so. I watched fitness videos and I saw 16 year old girls, just like me do it and I thought wow maybe it’s because they tried and they definitely somewhere. It’s like how we see others do well because they trusted God for something and we’re like wow okay maybe it works. Seeing others try is faith provoking. So let me tell you that if you try, it creates a cycle where you inspire others (I’ll come back to this later). This part of the process is the hardest. It’s the hardest, it’s even harder than actually being on the bar. The battle isn’t so much physically but mentally, you need to convince yourself. This part no one can be a part of, it is all you that you need to convince yourself to go do what God wants you to do, or what you know you should but are just too afraid to try.
  3. Convinced? Stage three is where you start trying. You hang on the bar and you feel the weight of everything (your body weight + gravity) all on your arms/shoulders. When you start trying, the pressures don’t come just from inside you (your lack of belief) but also from the external. Everything will try to bring you down, the time won’t be right, you’ll be tired, people will reject and diss  what you thought were your good intentions and this makes you start to believe less as the days go. Worse part is the bar is so high, literally. You see standards set and you know the only standard you have is your own convictions and beliefs and yet you can’t help feeling small and inadequate. But you grip the bar anyway and that’s a start. Good on you.
  4. You keep pulling, against all the odds you pull. I pulled for months, I tried so long and I just couldn’t bring myself over the bar. I stopped for 2 years because I went back to stage 1. You’re gonna fail countless times, you’re gonna try until you’re exhausted. There’ll be days you sit there and cry because life has taken everything out of you, opportunities passed you by, you wasted some. You get rejected by companies you applied jobs for and passed the many stages of interviews only to fail at the final hurdle. Your parents don’t value you, your friends don’t either. You feel how tired you are and you get going deadlines work school family church social life everything just overwhelming,  crumbling on you. You want to give up.
  5. Helplines come. After all that time, my best friend told me to try using a resistance band. It reduces the weight you’re pulling so you can cross the bar easier. It worked wonders, not so much for my body but for my confidence. I actually crossed the bar. Life throws you helplines. Be wise and listen to them. They come in advice, scolding, hugs, many many forms, sometimes not forms you like. But listen. They make the difference between you succeeding and you failing. One more thing, don’t get super reliant on them. After a while I realised I could hit 10 pullups with the resistance band. When you’re going good with the helpline, it becomes time to get weaned off it.
  6. Crossing the bar? Stepping on the floor. Looking up. All the advice of everyone I’d talked to ringing in my ears, I grab the bar. I pullback my shoulders and I begin the pull, I clear half the distance between my head and the bar, and somewhere I hear half my mind tell me oh no you can’t, and another half just say go go go go. Who you listen to determines whether you cross because at this point (and actually the rest of the time) it’s not a physical thing, but mental. At the start you may have been physically weaker but there’s no reason to be now. I’ve trained. You too, you’ve come this far. Uttering a silent *God help me*, I listen to the half of my mind that tells me to go and I pull. And suddenly I’m clear of the bar. I see my chin cross it. And I finally understand what it is to succeed. It’s small but it’s a victory. It’s a personal victory from my fears. You too, you gotta listen to the side that tells you to just go and obey it. The helplines that pulled you along/up won’t be there forever. You’ll have to clear the bar on your own, your life and race is yours. You can train with people just like you can run life’s race with people but in the end your race is your own to brave through the nightmares, the doubts, fears and tears. But take heart, you will clear in His timing.
How not to be always ‘broke’

How not to be always ‘broke’

This is written for broke college students. By broke, I mean 2.50 in your bank account kind of broke. That’s how bad it gets. One uber ride here ’cause you’re late and another expensive 10 bucks meal there and before you know it, you’re utterly down to your last dollar.

This cycle repeats every month until you get paid perhaps if you’re working part time or like a few hours a week which I’m sure is what a lot of us do. Wherever the money comes from, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s kinda gone before we know it. Social media is filled with advertisements and we fall for it. It doesn’t help that Google or the bots that run the internet track what we see and later you see that Zalora dress turn up as an ad on your Facebook sidebar. It sucks.

Anyway so this is how I saved money because well, I needed to plan for an event and more importantly, I was really sick of being broke

  1. Firstly, make your own food. And if you can’t cook then get what you like to eat that’s really easily prepared. Well,  it depends on what you like to eat. You could boil potatoes, celery and chicken overnight in a slow cooker for stew which costs about $5 for everything. I’m good with oats. I grabbed a 1kg bag of rolled oats and another bag of oatmeal and dunked them both in a box, mixed them. I soaked a portion overnight every night and ate it with milk and whatever fruits I could find in the fridge. That and coffee, made breakfast. It lasted me till at least 1 to 2pm. Then I got a meal at school, about 4 bucks maximum. And then the next meal was dinner which I forced myself to go home for. So I spend 4 bucks a day on food outside. That’s a change from spending 10 bucks a day. That’s 6 dollars difference, in a week, that’s 42 bucks.

    (Other ideas include: boiled eggs (my friend says you can chill them overnight), macaroni and minced chicken with veg and fishball, put chicken stock for the soup, pasta salad, fried rice – where you empty the contents of your fridge’s leftovers into the frying pan, sandwiches – all sorts of them).

  1. I started going home earlier. Going home late means sleeping later and waking later. University for me doesn’t start till 10, so of course I don’t get up at 6. I didn’t have to at least. But I realised as above mentioned, that I saved cost on one meal by having dinner at home. That meant I was home by 8pm. After dinner, was work until about 11.30 and I went to bed earlier, and consequently woke up at 7 instead of the usual 8.30. That’s a whole hour and a half more to chill, make breakfast, shower, prep to go to school, check emails, roll around a bit more in bed if needed etc. That’s an hour an a half of money. Look, if you wake up quick and rush, you lose the chance to have breakfast and then you’re starving but you have to go to class so you dash out to class, grab something small along the way which doesn’t exactly fill you but it’s meant to last till lunch – waffles and a drink that’s about 2.50, repeat this 4 times and week and that’s 10 bucks extra. You saved 10 bucks a week by having breakfast at home. It’s a lifestyle thing.
  1. I stopped spending on small stuff. It looks small, it’s less than 10 bucks. But buy 10 $8 items and that’s $80 bucks, repeat that for 4 months and that’s $320 that could have been saved. I stopped buying small stuff I didn’t need and only got them cause they looked cute. That habit was bad and it was one of the biggest reasons I kept blowing money everywhere unnecessarily..
  2. Stop going to bazaars if you know you’re gonna spend. Don’t go. Don’t browse cause you’re sure to grab stuff. Unless your self control is amazing. Mine’s definitely not. Stay off Carousell, Zalora, Asos, Aliexpress, Ebay, Amazon and Taobao/Ezbuy…
  3. If transport is a big issue in spending try getting concession passes. It’s 85 for uni students for a month of unlimited tapping (bus and train). Applying for a concession cards costs $23 and can be done at selected Transitlink offices!
  1. Have a coin box. It’s so primary school but it’s not a bad idea. Dump your coins in at the end of the day. It clears your wallet and makes your future self few dollars richer. Any savings program can’t be a bad thing. If you have many two dollar notes, put one inside. You’ll thank yourself later. I did that for a year. I got 100 bucks out of it.

 

That’s about all. Start small. It actually feels really nice seeing more money in your bank as you go along.

Mid-semester update 

Mid-semester update 

The last time I posted something it was December. It’s half of Sem 2 now and it’s been nothing short of a roller coaster ride as always. The first two weeks of the semester I struggled deeply with inner lack of motivation as I hauled myself back up from the pits of the effects of a bad result sheet last Sem. It was tough and exhausting beyond measure, seeing that I’m someone who gains my drive and motivation from within though it’s mostly externalized. It wasn’t a mere struggle but also a journey. I discovered the importance of rest and repose. Not just for the body but also for the mind. I think I went much deeper into painting and art, creating new designs because I was very stressed. As the weeks rolled on I saw myself running away from people more and more and I started to question whether there was something actually wrong with me because I never ran away from people. Church was literally the only place of refuge I found, where I could feel rested and not feel anxious and tense. I treasured church and the community so much more as I dealt with constant problems at home and in school. 

One thing I kept alive from my new year resolution was to do QT. Thank God it’s still going on. I mean it’s March right and everyone probably still can maintain a modicum of their new year resolution but I’m really thankful for the grace to sustain it. I’ve been kept by it, kept focused, resolved and steady. Though I nearly collapsed internally not a few times, God really kept me up through people and in ways I never expected. 

I’m going deeper into my modules. I really enjoy some of the mods and readings from them. There’s also the bad part where I realised I really can’t stand some mods but I have to do them anyway. That’s when I really pray for grace and patience. So it’s a learning experience.

One of the other things that kept my attention was also the weekly Bible studies I either had to give or partner with someone to give. It took up a large portion of my thinking time and stayed in my head a lot. Someone told me recently about objectives and how I should think about them when considering Bible studies and specific audiences. I think I learnt a lot about myself as well an in evangelising and speaking to other people. 

In other matters, there’s still a lot of things to pray and worry about in some way or another. But a friend of mine was reading Philippians and it comforted her much. This morning too in my QT, psalm 59 the last verse mentioned that God is my Defence and the God of my mercy. It comforts and brings strength to think not on how I should solve my own problems but that God goes before us, if we are faithful and follow His Word. 

Typing this while going for an exam is rather healing. Well… Might as well since the train is stuck at Bishan and it’s raining outside. Good reflection weather 😉 

A Christian student in college

A Christian student in college

 

Most people have their timetables empty when they come into university. Slowly with every fair that they go to, whether it is faculty events fairs, CCA fairs, sports fairs, etc., it starts filling up, first the weeknights, then the Saturdays and Sundays (perhaps) and then the slots where they don’t have lectures, and it gets more and more. Not everyone does this, but mostly, people prioritize academics, social life, and some, sleep. As a Christian student, we all know in the back of our minds that we come to college, wanting to first pull ourselves through as well as bring Christ to those around us, (some of us of course have this conviction deeper than others).

So we enter school (me included) and I started out Year 1 with the vision for myself that I would enjoy everything I do and do it all to the glory of God, for Him, not for myself. Sooner or later, this changed as I found that other things seemed to have taken over the  top of the priority list, my next social gathering beckoned while church events and quiet time took a backseat. At first my conscience was slightly disturbed, but I suppressed it, telling myself I would get my priorities in order when it was possible and that now was not the time. This repeated itself all semester and by the end of semester 1, I was burnt out and tired, happy but perhaps superficially.

I thought through this in semester 2 as well as in Year 2 Sem 1 and as I entered my second academic year I realised what a failure I’d been because I put God together with my to do list. Perhaps it was not that I did not prioritize Him, but that He was just another thing to tick off the list. In that sense it was as though if I could not finish the task, I could always push it to the next day or the day after. By His grace I repented of this in Year 2 and here are therefore some lessons I learnt.

  1. God is not part of your priority list, He should be independent of it

God should be ruling your to do list. How I arrange what I need to do for the day, week and month should be regulated by my attitude towards God. This means that we should allocate time to seek Him, quiet time in the mornings or nights, and not do it only when it is convenient for us to do so. If He really comes first, other things can wait.

  1. We are often stressed that we cannot finish everything we have to do.

That’s a problem I face all the time and still do. I figured somewhere along the way that the reason why I face this problem is because I never truly and fully believed that God is the God of the impossible. If I said He is Who He is then I should believe it – and that means to trust that if I go for that prayer meeting instead of allocating that two-hour slot to finish another 500 words of my essay, He will help me to complete it. I say this not meaning that we should leave our work to the last minute and expect Him to complete it for us, but that if perhaps practically, we are conflicted whether to go for a church meeting or do a piece of work instead, try putting Him first, try having faith in Him, and He promised He will be faithful and never fail us.

  1. Do all things not half-heartedly but with all that we have, not for ourselves, but for Him.

God tells us that He wants us to do everything we do with our whole heart. Whether it be relationships with people or academics, or any other task we sign up to do, we should not do it with a nonchalant attitude. This is because we are the living testimonies for Christ and for the Christian values (that we possibly claim to uphold). Furthermore, the way we carry ourselves with relation to work also is a way to share the gospel – the best proof is our lives and our attitude toward work. The Bible says we should do everything as unto God and not to men.

  1. Our standard should therefore be not men’s standard but God’s.

In a society where GPA/CAP/any form of academic grading seems to take the priority, determining our future and life, it is hard to look for anything outside that box. It is essential to always remind ourselves that we belong to Christ and that God is the ONLY one whose opinion matters. Ultimately, if we have done our best, we leave the result to God. At the same time, when failures come our way, it may be that God wants to teach us lessons through it and in a way, no one’s expectations and standards can impact and affect us to a really great extent because He is the most powerful God. We serve a God who controls all the world, do we believe that our grades and our lives are in His hand too? So, all the time, but especially when we feel that we are thrashed because we have not been able to live up to the expectations of the world, ourselves, family, anyone else for that matter, remember that it is God’s expectations and His favour and love toward us that count.

I hope that as Year 2 Sem 2 starts, I will remember these lessons and that we all together will become a blessing to someone else, to many others :’).

Doctor Strange review

Doctor Strange review

 So I caught Marvel Studios Doctor Strange in cinemas today. What a load of CGI to begin with. Generally, it was pretty decent, with the sort of quality expected from Marvel movies, if you’re a fan you’d know that another of the 6 Infinity gems was also part of the movie and post credits scene feature none other than Thor. I enjoyed the experience mostly because it brought together certain pertinent themes – time, human nature, and the question of evil against good (if you can even draw such a binary after watching the film), and also the public good versus the private sphere. Just felt like I needed to comment on the film after watching it.

Short summary: Cumberbatch is a doctor – DOCTOR Strange (he refuses to be called anything else, ‘Not Mister, DOCTOR Strange’) who loses his hands in a car accident and does everything to get back the use of them only to find out that they are all useless. He goes into the dumps until he goes East to find for a treatment and ends up in this place called Kamar-Taj where he gets at first thrown out by the Ancient One because he’s a sciency arrogant dude who cannot get the mystic of faith. Later she takes him back and he becomes not just a very bright student but he ends up discovering way more than he should – for someone as new to the arts as he is. He ends up aiding in the battle to protect the 3 Sanctums which shield the world against other forces and comes into possible conflict with one of his trainers, Master Mordo and another villain like character – Kaecilius, all three being former students to the Ancient One.

Now to the comments: it’s very long, you’ve been warned.

Time is relative. At least that’s what the movie tells you, it puts time as something controllable by terrestrial and extra-terrestrial beings – introducing ideas of time reversal, distinctly different and hierarchical dimensions of time with links to space, reflection and the past. The idea of time is played with so much in the movie that you have to pause and think for a bit before coming to terms with what you just saw. The ability for one to reverse time and redo certain things, make things right or in a way change one’s actions is also dealt with in the movie. The past certainly comes back to haunt the present as characters deal with issues of their past causing them to seek for a higher power which elevates them into a different dimension which allows them to control who they are and what they can do for themselves and for the world (if they wish to). It also defies the logic of eternity, as at one point it seems that Strange can control time with the Eye, hinting to a powerful force that is able to bend humans and other forces into submission, with the infinite time loop. The reflective goodbye speech of the Ancient one causes one to wonder how human beings can go through the mad pace of life each day without pausing to consider the beauty of it thereof.

Everyone has a story to tell. Human nature is a very interesting issue. You don’t see a clear binary between the good hero and the evil villain anymore. In this case it is different from normal ‘avengers’ movies because it seems as though each character’s different sides are portrayed in a way that doesn’t create them as one dimensional. Even characters with smaller roles have this too. Pangborn was selfish, but so was Strange. Why then was the former punished by Mordo but not the latter? The issue brought to the fore is that – all men for themselves – and really all men do seek for their own good. Be it the Ancient One, or Strange. They may claim to seek the good of the world – to protect the sanctums – but in the end they all seek that one goal of immortality. The line between good and evil is blurred and this makes the film so much more human and relatable, it associates viewers with the struggles characters face in attempting to decide whether they would choose to use the power they get for themselves or not.

I really loved the portrayal of Strange as desperate, pleading and just pathetic, when he realised his hands would not function anymore. It really begs the question of how far would you go to fulfil your utmost dream, and he wanted his hands back because work was his life. Most people went to the Ancient One for healing and some became detractors like Kaecilius. Some people may identify with Kaecilius, doing some research on his character’s history – like Strange he came to the Ancient One in hope that he would reunite with the wife and child he lost. He got disillusioned that the Ancient One was not showing him what everything and was hiding something so he went off on his own to find a way to break down all the dimensions and merge them – to make the world a simpler place perhaps, and to get to where he wanted to get to. In that sense he doesn’t seem like a terrible character, like every other one, he had a past. So he’s not your typical bad guy and leaves many questions unanswered.

Then there’s Mordo – who’s set up as the villain. He’s a very different villain. He doesn’t spit fire or throw stuff at people, as perhaps typical villains do, visually he barely looks the part. But perhaps he’s the dark mysterious one. The question I asked at the end of the film was, is he now gonna be part of the Dark dimension? The question I should have asked – is he already part of it? But he doesn’t agree with Strange, or the Ancient One. He upholds the Laws of Nature and goes according to how he thinks the cosmos is supposed to run. He frowns on Strange’s time bending acts – even if it is clearly for the greater good. He shows a lot more control than expected for a villain and that’s very interesting. He’s also a strange (hehe) villain because he shows much depth and empathy both in educating Strange in the laws of magic as well as care for the innocent civilians. His morality seems to show strongly and it is thus hard for me to call him a villain. At first I thought he was merely a control character in the Strange-Kaecilius battle but slowly I began to realise it would be exactly his character that would be in opposition to Strange’s. Not much is mentioned in this film in my opinion, but I await with bated breath for the next movie!

Having said all that, this film does not deny one of the enjoyment of pure Marvel styled battles and portals opening and closing… it’s funny how they have to teach Strange to open portals, that part was like – science vs faith. Science in that Strange’s a doctor and he thinks these magic stuff are all bullcrap until he’s thrown out of his body by the Ancient One (wew that slow-mo scene and all that dazzle of lights and galaxy sparkle though) versus faith and ‘surrender’ of his ego – and all his preconceived knowledge, to be able to work magic.

There’s a lot of funny in the movie too – Rachel McAdams confused looks throughout the movie make me crack up, plus Cumberbatch’s silly dissing comments do well to keep the viewer highly entertained, at least at the start before the movie starts accelerating to more intense issues.

Okay I feel like I’m writing another essay so this has got to stop somewhere because I could really go on further about this character breakdown and stuff. This was fun to write.

picture credits here (it’s a nice wallpaper tbh)

Year 2 Sem 1 // reflections

Year 2 Sem 1 // reflections

It’s coming to an end. I feel like this semester was the toughest so far. It was not because I was too busy or anything but more like emotionally and mentally I was thrown into the deep end and left to survive there. So many things happened this semester, so many good bad and ugly things. Home was a battlefield, school was another (sort of) and my heart was where it all collided and played out.

I don’t know how to type my reflections, honestly. I just felt this semester I was forced to deal with a lot of my inner turmoil that could only be brought out through these events that transpired. I asked questions like what do I value most in life, and what do I place my trust on? I thought of the many people that crossed my path and sometimes I detached myself from reality to watch the world go past and feel enjoyment in my alone time.

I feel like I possibly grew a little this semester in understanding heartbreak and frustration. I hate these emotions, they are so hard to deal with and they make me lose my motivation and drive. I cannot function with them around, I cannot deal with things that take up my spirit and bring my enthusiasm down and yet I was forced to. I planned so hard to avoid failure but in the end it was not my lack of planning that brought me down but my own body and mind. I wasn’t able to keep up. I learnt that university is a place where hard work matters but not as much as intelligence. Surely you can learn, you can learn real hard but you’d never beat or ever be on par or even come near people who already have it. and some people have it, they have everything.

I struggled to breathe amidst the demands that came from my subconscious, to tell myself that what I did will and never be enough. To spend 4 weeks doing an essay and get a B- was a slap on the face.

But amidst all the sadness, I became closer to certain friends. I grew to appreciate and be thankful for people who were there at the right place and right time, to offer the right word of encouragement when it was needed the most. To send me a verse or a prayer when I was broken and breaking more than I thought I could break and as I sat there sobbing in a corner of the library because I felt I could not do school anymore they were there to lift my spirits just a little. Thank you friends for being the light in my darkness.

This semester I learnt to love genuinely deeply and with all my heart. I learnt to love the people who broke me continuously, as Christ said, you forgive your brother not just 7 times but 70 times of 7. I learnt to forgive, it was so hard but I will try and keep trying to love and forgive the very people who break me down. I learnt to care for people and to use the depth of intense emotions that I have in me to draw out pools of love for those who needed it. I learnt to be more sensitive to people’s emotions, body language, their silence, what they subtly hinted and such like. It was a great lesson in love and empathy, something I overlook conveniently because I am a very selfish and self-centred being.

Furthermore because there was so much pain and frustration and everywhere, so when I went to church and read the Word or had my own quiet time, there was so much life and spirit ministered to me, there was so much healing and restoration and I think I felt really touched and overwhelmed by God’s care for an undeserving one like me.

I learnt to take advice. I’m proud and I hate people telling me things. But this semester I was forced to put down my pride and listen to people teach me life. I was forced to, compelled to, because of circumstances. And I learnt things. I really did.

This was the hardest semester so far, not because of anything external but because God wanted to deal with my heart. I am thankful. In everything, I will praise and continue to praise Him.

 

Recess Week // Midterm Reflection

Recess Week // Midterm Reflection

It’s been half a semester. Yes, it’s that fast, I’m starting to wonder where the first 6 weeks went. It was like a blitzkrieg in some ways more than one. I guess God answered my prayer when I asked to be pulled out of my comfort zone. I really got thrown so far out I had to come crawling back at times. I felt emotions I hadn’t felt in a long while during these 6 weeks.

I suppose the first thing I learnt is that I don’t understand people as I thought I did. I assumed that everyone would get me and understand me and that in turn I would be able to understand them and there would be a mutual understanding. The thing that weighs heavily on my mind and heart till today is that I may not have understood people as they would have wanted me to and instead I imposed my assumptions and mindset on them and that in turn, hurt them. I felt really bad about this as I thought about how I could have hurt people and unknowingly so. To be honest, I came to acknowledge that yes I was a fast, intense, and occasionally impulsive person. But I did not know that this was a problem for others, that perhaps they weren’t able to actually keep up, and I ignored that completely. I guess it’s still a learning process to understand that what my strengths are may exactly be someone else’s weaknesses and to grow as a leader, a person and a friend, I must be able to appreciate the struggles of others and adapt myself to them. In this way, I will be able to bring out the best in them without pushing them too hard and also without hurting them and making them feel inferior. I have a long way to go to improve in this aspect but hopefully I will learn it.

The next thing that happened this half of the semester was that God taught me sacrifice by making the people around me go through hard times. Making me go through hard times is one thing, I’ll probably respond by gritting my teeth and push on, and even if I broke halfway I’d still haul my broken limbs down the finishing line and crawl past. But when the people dearest to me that are around me are hurt or going through hard times, I start to realise I cannot help them even though I try, for various reasons, whether it is because it is just not something I can assist with, or because circumstances do not permit me to help them. But in these cases, I am forced and compelled to look to God in prayer. These 6 weeks I have to say, God was real-er than ever, there were nights I just lay on my bed and cried because I had no idea what was going on, I was tired of helping or trying to and failing, I was tired inside because the more I tried the more I failed (and either got pushed away or had to back off), and then I just felt exhausted inside, so drained deep in my soul. I think the only time I felt living waters pour over my soul was really when I went back to His Word and to seek Him. It was when I surrendered that I realised God led me step by step to do things in an unconventional way. He showed me that trusting Him started by being weak, being completely helpless and down and out and that was the only time I knew that I could not do anything – and then I looked to Him and He came to my help. So it became real because the next time I wanted to do the same thing, I tried gingerly to pray, not knowing if it would happen and it did. He proved to me that He was the helper of the weak, the One who brings those who fall up, ‘for when I am weak,then I am strong’. In trusting Him and giving more when I could not for His cause, He rewarded me with strength, blessings and joy. I am content.

I also started to also see the gap between Christian life and school life close, I have always asked God to show me that these two were not separate worlds, that there would be some form of link. I saw it these 6 weeks. I take 20th Century Lit, Postcolonial Lit, Feminism, Ancient Western Political Theory, and Intro to Philosophy. I came to understand what it really meant when I am brought up in conservative doctrines and tenets and then I get another framework of thought thrown at me and immediately there’s this natural repulsion that comes out of me when I realise that it is in direct opposition to what I learnt as a child. I get told in class that everything is a social construct, I mean sure, it is but a postmodernist point of view, and people be like ‘oh you don’t have to be so serious about it’ (yeah even that’s a POMO point of view) but then it is different and it is not just something that you feel the difference in the intellectual aspect but it is a lifestyle, a way of thinking, an attitude toward the world. oh well. I’m still negotiating those boundaries but God please give me grace to stay sound and faithful.

Lastly, these 6 weeks I had to learn to live my profession of faith. If I was serious about bringing people to the Lord then I had to live it out in my life. I was compelled to change certain behaviours that I strongly didn’t want to change because now I realised that it wasn’t just about me but that it was also about those around me. I made some changes that are hopefully for the better. I struggle daily but I need grace to be strong and act on those little convictions, praying that He will give me more. In my weekly Bible studies, I feel His love and grace shining on me, I feel His approval and I want to carry on, it is ironic how it seems like I’m spending more time on spiritual things and yet I find I rely more and more on the never ending Source of strength, my Saviour. I am grateful for the pain, for the lessons.

Just to end, let me quote Blessings by Laura Story

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

P.S. Recess week was wonderful, I was behind/in front of the camera for 4/5 days and I loved it, so much. Thank you all who were a part of that rest.

P.P.S It seems God approves this post, as I typed this last sentence, Blessings comes on in my shuffled playlist hehe

For the Overenthusiastic 

For the Overenthusiastic 

zzFor what it’s worth, I’d thought I’d write this. This post goes out to what I would call overenthusiastic freshmen. The madness of the semester has fallen onto you and you want to do everything. You see potential in yourself and so much ‘sparkling’ promise in every club’s booth you walked past during the Student Life Fair (of course this is an exaggeration) but you get me.

When it all comes down, you realise you have signed up for 5 clubs and God knows how many other events. What a treat. ‘Chill’ clearly is not in your dictionary and you’re on the cusp of doing just about everything you ever wanted to do.

Here are some thoughts in that light. Take this from me, I did more than 10 events in Semester 2 of freshman year, joined 3-4 clubs/committees, played sports, did fitness training… (and studied!)

Don’t short change yourself. Firstly it’s freshman year, you have a gradeless free year! Also, you should try everything and anything and get exposed to different kinds of interest groups, sports or committees. Consider your stamina and capacities but also never forget that university is a great place to push your boundaries and your supposed limits. People will often tell you that you’re crazy and too hardcore. Never sell yourself short just because people impose their limits on you. My advice? Just do it. Tell yourself that you’ll never learn unless challenged out of your comfort zone, then go the distance.

 

  1. Sleep. NO ONE in university actually sleeps properly or enough. Doing everything can be fun and satisfying, but without sleep you will not just burn out way faster than you ever thought, you would also be unable to enjoy everything to the maximum. Given that you’re doing a good number of things, less sleep is perhaps one of your options, but be sure to pay your sleep debt or it will accumulate over time and kill your body slowly.
  2. Have goals. Join clubs, interest groups or sports with those goals in mind. Join things with the intention to pick up a skill and/or gain something, like marketing, or publicity, or leadership of whatever sort you want to. If you join something for the fun of it, that’s okay but there is more potential for you to fulfill when you already tell yourself your purpose and goal in joining that particular thing.
  3. This is linked to 3 – join a diverse range of things. University is the last time you get to enjoy yourself before work comes and devours you. Personally, to date, I have joined a cultural club, a sports/outdoors interest group, an academic society and participated in external projects with another academic society. All these teach me very different skills in various positions with different people and their club’s respective aims, missions and visions. You will gain varied experiences and soft skills which will help you in the working world. Not everyone in the working world only looks for paper qualifications. In fact, many employers look for people who adapt well, learn well on the job, and have good interpersonal skills. However, if you believe that you should join one and stick to it all the way, do go ahead and do whatever makes truly you happy.
  4. Know your capacity. You might be a hardcore person, but we all have a limit, and the faster we know that limit, the better it is for us so that we can push ourselves while maintaining our sanity and health. Even though pushing beyond the limit is good, but it must be contained and you know yourself best. You have 4 years. You can find things you’re interested in, but you don’t have to do everything at the same time in the same semester. Push back some stuff because you can always come back for it later.
  5. Don’t forget you’re a student. Prioritize what you need to do, and when you need to. Play hard, but study hard too. Don’t procrastinate. Not only will a lot of things fall into place, you will find yourself having more time to do more things. If you want to do many things, spread out your work, and start your final essay or project as early as possible, NOT during week 13. Start in week 8 if you can. The faster you finish studying, the more you can play or do other things.
  6. Plan – please, please, plan. It is better to not rush around school. Planning is key. It helps with number 6 too, especially when the event is nearing and you’re barely studying, and you don’t actually remember your assignment is due the next day.

 

All in all, the learning curve for you as a freshman will be steep and experiences will be great if you make it so. Your university life is what you want it to be. So start this journey right, and for those who did not start on the ‘perfect’ note, it is never too late to try again. Mistakes will be an essential part of the journey, so go ride the rollercoaster of fun!