Rain, Plants, and Everything Else


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Foreword

First of all, thank you for subscribing to FORWARD.

In this social-first, auto-playing video, trending topic world, FORWARD is aimed to be the opposite of all of that noise. Not quite a blog, not quite a newsletter, my hope for FORWARD is to provide a monthly dose of inspirational features for you to check out when you have time instead of offering something that will fight for your time.

In this issue, you’ll find an update on the California drought, how to keep plants alive, why it’s important to speak up, and more! This is the first issue so please be patient as things may evolve over time as the newsletter forms its own identity. But in the mean time, please take a look at FORWARD, and join me in this brand new journey.

Oh! And if you like the newsletter, please share by forwarding (hehe) the newsletter to your friends and family.

Let the rain fall down

Before and After the Rain

After weeks of heavy rain, it seems to finally help California alleviate its record-setting drought. KQED did a nifty feature where you can compare the massive difference between 2014 and 2017 side-by-side. You can check out the feature here.

Not so Tender Greens

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Despite my best intention, I have yet to keep a single Rosemary plant alive around the apartment. My black thumb has become somewhat of a joke as Ian keeps buying me Rosemary plants to “replenish” my dead ones. You can check out the feature here.

Minus365: T-Shirts

I’ve always lived minimally, but even with a mindful intention my closet still tend to fill up over time. I was watching The Minimalists, a documentary currently available on Netflix, the other night and it totally sparked an idea for me to declutter my life.

Minus365 is where I will remove/donate one object from my life every day for all of 2017. Each month will be based on a different theme, and I’m starting with t-shirts for January to kick start this yearlong project. Just think, if I were to keep this up for the entire year, there will be 365 fewer things around my apartment, and my life!

Between all the t-shirts I was given (or earned?) in my five year of working at IGN along with other gifts and sentimental hand-me-downs, my closet is full of t-shirts. Are you curious enough to join Minus365? If so, reply to this email and send me pictures of your 30 t-shirts (or whatever you decide to remove!).

Say Something

Jamelia, A British R&B Singer

“The problem is that we don’t tell you, we speak about it amongst ourselves and you get to carry on about your day not realizing you’ve ruined ours.” Jamelia

Recently Jamelia, a British R&B singer, was on board a first-class flight with her daughter, only to be questioned by other passengers who asked to see their airplane tickets. She stood her ground and went on Twitter to explain why. You can read more about the incident here.

Now, I’m not a fan of hers because I have barely heard of her before this incident. But this happens all too often to me and to minorities everywhere. Like Jamelia said, I tend to be too polite or try to rationalize myself to be “the bigger person” instead of speaking up and calling out bullies who makes hurtful or ignorant comments.

But words do hurt, and their comments ruminate with me for the rest of day if not for weeks to come. Why do they get to carry on their day while we suffer silently? It’s not fair, it’s not acceptable, and it’s time we speak up.

Between Us: Classic Aransky

Maybe it’s my connection to RIT or maybe it’s me working at the crazy world that is IGN, but I have a lot of friends who are constantly working on various creative projects. Since FORWARD is a monthly showcase of all things interesting and inspirational, I want to use this space and share with you other interesting projects my friends are also working on.

Classic Aransky logo

Meet Michael Aransky and his new video blog, Classic Aransky. By day he’s a senior producer at IGN, and by night he’s on a yearlong journey to get comfortable in front of a camera as he works his way toward to making his first movie since 2012. You can check it out here.

If you have an interesting project and want to be featured on FORWARD, simply reply to this newsletter and tell me all about it!

Take a Minute

Photo by Michael Browning, courtesy of Unsplash

And..that’s it for January! Please (ahem…) FORWARD this to a friend if you enjoy this newsletter, or sign up below if someone had shared this newsletter with you in mind.

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Love wins

Chapter 1: The Reset Button

This is part one of my project Ingredients of Fear, where I would peel back the onion and reveal everything that’s been beating me down and holding me back inside. Click here to learn more about The Ingredients of Fear.


Ever since my family emigrated to the US when I was ten, I’ve been trained to be constantly on the move. From going to middle school on the opposite side of the city, to college in Rochester, to working in Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, I’d find myself in a different part of the world every few years. I always looked so restless from the outside looking in, like those people who would rush to the front of the plane the second it hit the tarmac. Yeah, I hate them too.

The good thing about moving so often is that you get to hit the big red reset button every single time to restart your life. Like a witness protection program I’m sent to a different city again and again, every time with the opportunity to be anyone I want to be.

But growing up as a nomad also created this mindset that I could just pack up and evict myself every time an opportunity knocked at my door, even when that opportunity was really an excuse for me to take the easier way out.

I’ve changed jobs, wiped my computers, changed my email addresses, and even moved to the other side of the world just so I could look away from the face of fear. Instead of dealing with my problems head on, I’d just run away and try to restart my life over with a clean slate.

Continue reading “Chapter 1: The Reset Button”

Wake Me Up When Lent Season Ends

It was something that needed to be done. I was constantly on Facebook on all hours of the day. Like an addict I was always making sure I had read everything off my feed and had cleared off all the notifications. And with increased frequency Facebook had became the first thing I reach for in the morning and the last thing I look at before passing out in bed.

Facebook wasn’t a part of my life as much as my life had became specifically planned around it. I had to cut the cord somewhere, so for Lent this year I decided to give up Facebook and social media altogether.

Let Go Continue reading “Wake Me Up When Lent Season Ends”

Why I’m Moving Back

From being in Hong Kong, to growing up going to schools at various ends of San Francisco, to going to college in Rochester, starting anew has always been the story in my life. It was no different when I told my friends in 2011 that once again, I would be leaving San Francisco for Los Angeles to pursue something that I’ve only ever dreamt of doing — to work at IGN.

I’ve grown and learned a lot in the past few years. And through these two years it took a lot of thinking in figuring out where my next level should be in 2014. It’s time to return to San Francisco.

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Continue reading “Why I’m Moving Back”

100w100d: Lesbians

Day 99: Lesbians have a bad rep. As easy as it may be to make softball or Home Depot jokes, there isn’t a stronger community than these unsung heroes. While others may call them “tomboys”, I see them as defying gender roles and stereotypes. From Ellen to Allison Goldfrapp, I’ve been shaped and deeply inspired by their tenacity and endurance.

It’s silly how gay men and lesbians can sometimes be seen as on opposite sides when we’re always fighting the same fight and we’re so much alike. They are the epitome of cool and fierce and I wouldn’t dare of crossing them.

100w100d: Perfect Day

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry... Life is great when you get to do all three in a day. #vscocam

Day 98: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: life is great when you get to do all three in a day. A day like today.

Starting with having brunch with my lifelong friend and mentor Bruce, to bumping into my old colleague Matt, to grabbing a drink with fellow IGNer Tate, to rounding out the night with dinner and desserts with my high school friends, I’m still baffled by just how many amazing people I have in my life.

I met each of them in wildly different ways, but purely through happenstance they all came together to create this blissful, perfect day. Wow.

100w100d: Hatchet

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Day 97: Earlier this week I reached out to a great guy I used to date, the one that got away, and we finally got together today as if nothing happened. We talked and talked, drank and drank, and everything just felt so… easy.

Sometimes a hatchet isn’t really a hatchet but a grip that you simply need to let go of. Yes, things happened in the past, but at the end of the day I’m just happy I’ve decided to reach out to an otherwise someone I’ve lost touch with. He’s such a genuine guy and I’m smitten as can be.

100w100d: San Francisco

Oh, San Francisco. #vscocam

Day 96: My friends and I went to this restaurant tonight that’s going to be closed by end of year, and through plates of tapas and glasses of Sangria I tried to soak in the atmosphere as much as I could — before it’s gone away for good.

There’s just… something about San Francisco. I’m at this strange crossroad where I no longer feel at home, yet everything is strangely familiar. Not unlike a lucid dream where everything seems so real, yet you’re fully aware that it’s but a dream; you’ll eventually need to wake up.

Oh it’s what you do to me

100w100d: Coexistence

#HappyHolidays

Day 95: As much of a Christmas nut as I am, my parents are surprisingly less so — they’re probably the least festive people you’ll ever meet. Thankfully, we were invited to a Christmas dinner this year, hosted by one of my parent’s church friends.

Being a non-religious gay man, it would’ve been easy to brush off the invite and retort with a snarky, self-important joke. Instead I’m so grateful to be invited to take part in celebrating their most important day of the year.

A lot of people wish for world peace, and learning to coexist is the first step toward that.

100w100d: Friends

Reflection, part 1

Day 95: Christmas is but hours away and I’m still trying to ease into vacation mode. With a demanding job along with my tendency to over think everything, my mind is constantly spinning in a million directions and it’s been challenging for me to focus on the present.

A big part of my SF trip this time is to catch up with my friends and family. There are so many people I haven’t talked to in years, simply because I’m never around long enough to do so. Reconnecting with them will be a crucial part to reseting my life as 2014 approaches.

100w100d: Dickens Fair

Christmas Carol

Day 93: I’m a huge sucker for Christmas, and it was only when my friends invited me last second years ago was I introduced to the magical world of the Dickens Fair. As if a time machine (or TARDIS, let’s be real here) could take us back to the Victorian London, Dickens Fair changes the Cow Palace in San Francisco from top the bottom, with Christmas spirit filled to the brim.

Every winter I return to the Bay anticipating returning to the fair, only to find out I’d just missed it. This year marks the first year and I simply can’t wait.

100w100d: Stupid

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Day 89: I was such an asshole growing up. There were so many cringe-worthy things I’d said and done. Some of them still eat inside me, while others will lead to me facepalming every time these memories bubble up to my mind. And they often do.

I can’t blame my previous actions on anything or anyone, because if anything I can only blame them on my process of growing up: accepting my identity, outgrowing my insecurity, and fumbling over this constant yearning to fit in.

Stupid is as stupid does, I just hope I’ve become a better man because of these moments.

100w100d: Introvert

My Reward.

Day 88: If Buzzfeed and my Facebook feed is any indication, 2013 is the year of Introverts. With countless articles about every misconception about introverts one can imagine, it’s becoming this new, legitimate need to come out, announcing that “No I don’t hate people, I’m just an introvert.”

For me, it’s more about curation than anything else. I enjoy personal space so I can be lame without judgment. I enjoy the sound of silence, so I can work my way toward expressing my thoughts instead of broadcasting my otherwise knee-jerk reactions.

So maybe I’m not introverted, I’m just good in marketing myself.

100w100d: Collective Memory

寂寞擁擠

Day 86: Hong Kongers love looking back to the city’s past, and the phrase “collective memory” is especially popular. May it be about a past tragedy or a fond occasion, there always seem to be a television special airing there, along with a heavy byline of “XYZ, a Hong Kong collective memory.”

More importantly, this collective feeling is what bounds us together. It’s what defines us as a community, and it unites us as human beings. We celebrate together, we mourn together. As our world is becoming more compartmentalized, more dog-eat-dog than ever, it’s important to realize our commonality underneath it all.

100w100d: Dreams

Lit Darkness 2

Day 85: I live a good life for the most part, with a wonderful job, family, and friends who are there for me. But there lies this secret life after dark, one where my eyes are closed, terrible decisions are made, and everything’s forgotten some time the morning after.

I was in a sham marriage last night, and vaguely remembered falling off a cliff the night before. But I always know to turn back: I’d wake up and for a brief moment I’m thankful for everything I have; the world is still as I remembered.

That’s also when I have to pee.

100w100d: Cher

cher

Day 84: Let’s get this out of the way: Cher is not Madonna. She’s actually not a lot of things. She’s not as short, submissive, nor young as our society limits her as a female entertainer. And then there’s her voice… not at all what you expect in a woman singer.

It really is too easy to make fun of her. But through everything she’s not, she’s undeniably Cher and she’s built one of the most renowned and prosperous careers in entertainment in the past 50 years and counting.

She perseveres because of what she’s not, and I admire her because of it.

100w100d: Nomad

一個人回家。

Day 83: I’ve always been a nomad, having spent my life so far between Hong Kong, San Francisco, Rochester, and now Los Angeles.

It’s not that I have this constant need to move to a new destination every few years, but rather there would always be something that’d lead me there: RIT in Rochester, family in Hong Kong, IGN in LA, that sort of thing.

But it’s also my personal choice to keep my life as flexible and mobile as it is. I like that I can fit my life in my car; to pick up and go at a moment’s notice.

100w100d: Creak

The Tiles

Day 82: There’s this area of the hardwood floor right in the middle of my studio apartment that would creak loudly whenever I step on it. I used to not pay attention to it since this is an old apartment after all, but lately I began wondering if that creaking noise would be bothersome to my downstairs neighbor.

I’ve been super conscious about it ever since. Every time I’d have to cross the room, I would try to walk around this otherwise huge empty space in the apartment, this massive invisible furniture I can’t unsee, just to avoid the noise.

100w100d: Winter

Earth shattering

Day 81: I used to love cold weather. I love how refreshing and crisp the air would get in the winter. There’s just something magical and blissful to cozy up in a blanket while marathon-watching my favorite tv show over a lazy Sunday afternoon.

But ever since I moved down to Los Angeles, I’ve been really enjoying the summer down here in SoCal. December marks only the beginning of winter and I’m pretty much ready for it to be over. It doesn’t help that my apartment has poor insulation so there’s no point of turning up the heat.

Counting down the days

100w100d: ARTPOP

Day 79: I’ve never been a fan of Lady Gaga. Fame Monster to me was generic and thought Born This Way to be full of clichés — she was but another artist hopping on the It Gets Getter bandwagon popular at the time.

But I’m pleasantly surprised by Artpop despite what everyone’s been saying. No longer is she tirelessly trying to convince everyone how much she cares for equality or that she’s totally not copying Madonna, this album has the space to express who she actually is.

As a result, Artpop unveils much more personality and diversity than any of her previous work.

100w100d: Traffic

Apple Maps

Day 78: I’ve had the luxury of avoiding most of the notorious LA traffic during the first year and a half of moving here. It wasn’t until our IGN office had moved to Culver City for me to truly understand how ridiculous LA traffic can get.

Located 5.5 miles away, it would take me about 20 minutes to get to the office if I leave before 7:30am. Not bad right? But anytime afterwards or on a bad day, it can easily take up to an hour to get to work. An hour to travel 5.5 miles — that’s LA traffic for you.

100w100d: Sneakers

The Sneaker

Day 77: My most worn pair of shoes is this pair of Adidas I got at a Nordstrom Rack years ago. There’s no interesting backstory nor does this pair of shoes hold any significance in my life, and I’ve wanted to replace them but never really gotten around to it.

The funny thing is, I’ve been wearing these kicks for so long that I’ve grown to really liking them. It’s not comfortable at all, there’s a hole at the top, and the glue is no longer intact on the sides. But they do cover my feet and sometimes that’s all that matters.

100w100d: Bad Habit

Day 75: For someone who’s shamelessly frugal, one of the things I do buy on a regular basis is music. I’m big on personal growth, so I’m always curious to see how my favorite artists have grown through their latest work. Adding to the fact that I follow both English and Chinese music (Cantopop), I often end up spending much more than I realize or should.

Because I’m constantly buying new music, there are albums I’ve purchased but have fell completely off my radar. Fiona Apple came on the other day and I had no idea I even have her 2012 album!

100w100d: AIDS

Day 73: HIV/AIDS is a forgotten subject. It’s extinct not because it’s no longer relevant but because it remains a heavy stigma and no one wants to be the downer who brings it up in our daily conversations.

I volunteered at a non-profit called Bay Positives in 12th grade, and that place taught me that the topic doesn’t need to be heavy, though the conversation does need to continue to prevent the spread of HIV while empowering those who have it to live happier, productive lives.

On this World AIDS Day, I urge everyone to get tested and talk about it.

100w100d: Darren Hayes

Darkness

Day 72: Darren Hayes has and always will be the artist I can most relate to.

Admittedly, it’s a little delusional to imagine how one can possibly relate to someone who doesn’t even know your existence. I know it’s silly. But through his songs there’s also this sense of openness; his songs are something I can hold onto.

From his Savage Garden days to his four albums afterwards, he’s taught me how to endure tension for the spark, when to fight a losing battle and when to let go, and that selfless giving is not a sign of weakness but of strength.

100w100d: 4'33"

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Day 71: I like to listen to music when I write, usually with headphones. Shrinking me into a smaller world, music sets me away from my daily worries and allows me to focus solely on the choice and order of my words.

But today is different. I’m at the library and there’s no talking. Instead there’s all these ambient sounds surrounding me — paper turning, keyboard typing (that’s me), backpacks unzipping, chairs squeaking, all unknowingly working together toward a crescendo that will lead up to the piece’s biggest drop: a cough.

It’s not unlike 4’33”, except it’s on repeat without ever repeating. Bravo.

100w100d: Thankful

I don't usually repost old photos but I just adore this one of @katieocole and myself.

Day 70: Let’s face it, there’s no way I can fully express my gratitude in 100 words. Without my family I wouldn’t have been loved and inspired to be the person I am today. Without my coworkers I wouldn’t have learned to instill passion (read: nerdiness) into products that are loved by millions. Without my friends (past and present), I wouldn’t be alive today.

The key isn’t to be thankful for Thanksgiving, but to live a grateful life on a daily basis. Of course there’s ups and downs, but nothing is as vital as the amazing people in my life.

Thank you.

100w100d: Over the Hill

NPR Logo

Day 69: It was a subtle but quick process to be as out-of-the-loop on things as I am. It all started with cutting cable, followed by switching to NPR, and the next thing I know I haven’t a clue on on who or what One Direction is.

People consoled me when I turned 31 earlier this month by saying “thirties are the new twenties,” not knowing that I secretly wished that thirties would be the new sixties so I could get to bed by 9pm.

Maybe it’s the kids who are missing out: nothing’s sexier than getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

100w100d: Starbucks

Day 68: I’ve done a lot of writing in the past few years, and a lot of them happened at my local Starbucks. There’s no reason for me to come here from a financial standpoint: the coffee is decent but expensive and the environment is distracting (the kid sitting next to me just dropped an Ice Tea Lemonade, for example), but it does offer me an unique opportunity to people-watch.

It isn’t to poke fun or to be malicious, rather I’m perpetually curious to see how people and families interact in general. Starbucks is a live stage with caffeinated characters at play.