The End

I’m going to keep this short and sweet; the quicker I finish this, the better I’ll feel. I was planning on writing something much longer, but that tedious process has only reaffirmed my desire to put an end to this blog.

For the most part, blogging has been a worthwhile experience. I like writing about the things in which I take a great interest and sharing these writings with people. I’ve developed an online portfolio of some of my work and some useful skills with regard to blogging, WordPress, and in general, writing itself; however, what began as a fun and productive exercise has become something much more terrible: unsatisfying work which usually isn’t being done.

What’s worse is that people are beginning to take me much too seriously. I’ve had conversations in the past with people about music, to use a specific example of one of my usual blogging topics, and I’ve been asked questions like, “Well, Joe, you’re a music critic, what do you think?” That scares the hell out of me. Some people dedicate their lives to that sort of thing; don’t insult their work by confusing me with them.

Don’t worry, I’m not quitting writing. I never will. I have a draft of a children’s book written, and I’d like to begin working on the illustrations. I’ve been working on a short story and a few poems. I also plan on revisiting a longer prose work of mine that I began writing during my junior year of college. I hope to have these published some day, but until then, they will be my precious little secrets. I plan on taking my sweet time with them. Even if they are never published or read, I can at least know that upon their completion, I will be able to die feeling fulfilled. Personal fulfillment is all I really need in this life; I don’t need readers or publicity as much as I need to write.

I believe wholeheartedly in the ability of criticism to inform readers and to create some sort of comment on their lives and/or the society in which they live, and I applaud those who do it well. Personally, I’m just tired of it. I’ve recently discovered that other forms of writing bring me greater joy and satisfaction, and that is why I’m going to focus on those things from here on out.

Some say that not all art is created equal, but it’s also said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I find partial truth in both of these sayings; plain and simple, blogging isn’t for me, and I’m not sure if it ever was. I’m happy that I gave it a good try, at least.

I can’t continue to deceive my readers into thinking that I’m still interested in blogging—I’m not—but most importantly, I can’t continue to deceive myself. Things change.

Each of these writings will take me back to particular moments in my life; I’m happy to have documented them accordingly. Look back on these writings and see how I developed as a writer over the course of three years: the most formative period of my life so far. In the process, try to see where my heart was and was not.

On with life, and best always,

-J.S.T.

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To My Niece, Charlotte—with Love

November 23rd, 2016

Charlotte Kim Hilton,

I was finally able to meet you, and I sit here in the airport now waiting for my flight to return home. I’ve just said goodbye to your father who dropped me off here. I had an amazing time here in Provo with you and your parents, who very hospitably housed and fed me just so we could meet, and a flurry of emotions overwhelms me as I prepare to leave and say goodbye to you for now. It was especially difficult to say goodbye to your mother, but a beautiful thing happened as I was walking out of your apartment door: it began to snow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the snow fall before, Charlotte. Nighttime has fallen, and the falling snow and whatever remnants of lightning from the thunderstorm that has just passed create a peculiar luster in the obsidian of the night sky. Before I left your apartment, your parents told me that this was your first thunderstorm. I wish that I could hold you just one last time before I leave so we could enjoy this unique moment together. I don’t mean to be melodramatic or saccharine, my little star, nor do I mean to use you as a vehicle for my writing—you are my niece, first and foremost—but these words come quickly and fade even faster; I must capture this moment in some way, for my own sake, and writing is the only way I really know how to do so. Forgive me. It is vain, but it helps me feel better. I cannot allow these thoughts to escape me.

Your well-meaning Grandpa Paul told me that I should save my money instead of buying a plane ticket to go and see you because you and your parents would be coming to visit us in California in just a few short weeks, but I couldn’t wait that long, my love. You see, what made me buy this plane ticket so suddenly was the fact that after some recurring and sharp pains in my abdomen, I feared for my life, Charlotte; the very meager possibility that I could have dropped dead at any moment without seeing you existed (but do not worry, my darling, after buying the plane ticket, I went to see the doctor, and after a close examination, she thinks that these are just gas pains which can be easily rectified by some dietary and lifestyle changes. I hope that we will laugh together at my irrational anxieties when you are able to read this). I am fortunate that, at the age of 21, I can say that I have lived a good life; I was raised by a loving family, I’ve had the privilege of studying at an accomplished university, I’ve fallen in love, and I’ve been able to pursue my dreams with some semblance of meaning and drive instilled within me—but you see, my niece, with my seemingly impending doom looming over me, I couldn’t die in peace knowing that you existed in this world and that I would never be able to see you. Even if I didn’t drop dead unexpectedly, you wouldn’t be this small forever, Charlotte. I couldn’t wait any longer; my insides felt as if they were torn up. I had to come see you.

So, I asked your mother if it would be okay if I came and saw you, and when she said that it would be okay, I rushed to buy my ticket. A couple of days later (that Saturday), I drove up to San Francisco from San Luis Obispo. I would be flying to Provo from Oakland early the next morning. I began driving, and when I reached the highway, a very strange sensation took over me; rather than merely being carried along with my car in a state of inertia as I accelerated, I felt as if I was being actively propelled within the dividing lines of the lanes on the road at breakneck speed, being plunged into darkness and swallowed by the esophageal lane into the abysmal and bottomless belly of the beast that is life (or as opposed to “is,” let’s say “can be,” Charlotte; that is the difference). As I drove on the highway past the farms and fields along the Central Coast, the air smelt like fertilizer and wet earth. A hard rain was falling and there was not a single patch of blue in the sky; but, a ray of sunlight managed to impale the grayness of the clouds. Your Grandma Kumsoon used to sing me a certain song to lull me to sleep as a young child, and some of the lyrics from that song came to mind:

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.
Please, don’t take my sunshine away.”

That’s when I thought of you, Charlotte, for you are my sunshine. I know that’s a total cliché, my niece, and your cynical uncle hates clichés—you deserve so much more than your uncle’s banality and sentimentality—but I find so much truth in this association of mine because, as far as my own life is concerned, you are the happy brightness of the sun pervading through the sad grayness of the clouds, giving new life to a world of stale air, stagnant water, and withering vegetation. Despite the somber and oppressive torrent of rain, you, that ray of sunlight transfixing the gloomy clouds, would work with the rainfall to bring new life to the slowly decaying earth—and, my dear, isn’t that much like life itself, taking sadness with happiness and creating something new and beautiful out of it? I began to wonder why I deserved someone as special as you in my life.

My little ray of sunshine, it is so sadly and painfully difficult to explain to some people why your life is so important to me and why it is I am so delighted that you are finally here with us in this world. “It’s not like she’s your daughter or anything,” some said of my excitement when you were born, or “Oh, well that’s cool, I guess.” Perhaps I understand them a little—only a little, Charlotte—because they speak from an impersonal perspective, though I do detest sentiments like these with all of my heart—I really do—but be as happy as I am to know that these people make up the vast minority of those who know of your existence and that everyone else was absolutely delighted to hear of your birth; you had managed to brighten up their lives just as you had brightened up mine, my sunshine. Your mother’s side of the family has always been small; it was always just your Grandma Kumsoon, your Grandpa Paul, your Uncle Bryan, and your Aunt Nicole when your mother and I were growing up together. Only we will ever understand the hardships your mother’s side of the family has faced, especially in the past couple of years (your mother and father will decide when it’s the right time to tell you more about our side of the family), but in a way, these hardships have brought us even closer together. The marriage of your mother to your father made our small family seem so much larger, and you were the cherry on the top of the wedding cake, so to speak. With you as a new addition to the family, my princess (Grandpa Paul has called your mother “princess” for as long as I can remember), our family became infinitely larger. When you were born, you brought sunlight into all of our lives, not just mine; the meaning you imbued within us upon your birth revitalized us all, especially your grandparents.

I remember when I first saw a photograph taken of you on the day you were born. I showed this photograph to one of my best friends who very endearingly and humorously called you a “little grape.” Yes, my little grape (by the way, I am so glad that you do not have your Uncle Joe’s big rock candy mountain of a head; did you know that for years, your Grandma Kumsoon had to hold my hand when I would walk because the weight of my head would make me lose my balance?), you were less than a day old when this photograph was taken, and I remember so vividly the fairness of your purplish-pink skin, your full head of chestnut-colored hair, and your serene eyes. I instantly saw so much of your mother in you which delighted me in a strange way, perhaps because I was reminded so much of the happier days of my childhood and the good times that I had had with your mother. I really miss those days; your mother is my best friend. When I fell out of a window when I was only three years old, your mother was the one who found me and told your Grandma Kumsoon that I was hurt. When we were even younger, your mother broke her first bone trying to give me a piggyback ride. I’ll never forget, of course, walking with her to and from school nearly every day, watching Saturday morning cartoons with her every weekend for the majority of our early childhood, frequently eating at the pizza joint near our childhood home with her and your Aunt Nicole, and going to countless Giants and Warriors games with her and your Uncle Bryan as we tried to collect as many bobbleheads as we possibly could. I’ll especially never forget her constant support, which, by the way, she still gives to me and to everyone else in her life. Forgive me for being this kind of uncle, but you are so lucky to have your mother and father in your life, even if as you grow up there may be—naturally—times where you do not believe that this is so.

Alors, mon petit champignon (will you ever take French classes like your mother and I did? This is one of many things about your bright future that makes me wonder), what I mean to say is that in seeing so much of your mother in you, it’s almost as if I’m reliving my childhood vicariously through you but from the perspective of an adult with much more advice to give. Believe me, buddy, if there’s anything I hate more than clichés, it’s the corny and overly moralistic adult trying to tell people how to live their lives. Your uncle is still learning how to take care of himself, but I feel as if this is the point in this exposition where it becomes necessary for me to impart some wisdom—sure, let’s call it wisdom—to you.

First of all, do not be afraid to feel. Your uncle is still learning how to feel in the right way. You should strive toward happiness, my love, but inevitably, some things in this world will make you very anxious, scared, sad, or angry; these feelings, at least, will help you learn more about how you perceive the world that we live in because they force you to consider the possibilities and circumstances of every situation. Feeling is how we learn compassion. Compassion is how we understand others better. In understanding others better, we become more fit to help those around us. Be as aware of your own feelings as you are aware of the feelings of others, and I know that you will make a positive difference in the lives of those around you; however, you must also use your head when you feel, Charlotte. Do not confuse compassion with passion; you cannot be overzealous in your feelings. Do your best not to hold grudges, especially without good reason. They eat away at the heart, tear at the flesh, and grind bone into dust until all that remains of the self is a gelatinous and insupportable mess. Take it from my own experience; grudges and hatred damage the soul. You must not forget that the head is inextricably bound to the heart.

Secondly, know that the world can be a very terrifying and confusing place. It will pose many questions to you, and I won’t pretend to know the answers to those questions. But, you are surrounded by people who are willing to talk to you and help you through these scary times; that is a privilege many children are not fortunate enough to have. There are plenty of people in this world who will act in accord with their own interests before they take yours into consideration, and that is a sad and ineluctable fact of life, my little flower; people will do terrible things that will hurt you greatly. It’s not the selfishness of the world that bothers me the most, but its painful indifference. Despite this, know that your parents would sacrifice their entire lives for you (they already have, in a way, by deciding to have you) and that you are surrounded by loving people who are here to help you. I assure you, my niece, we are on your side, and we always will be!

Lastly, do your best to define happiness and success on your own terms. So often in this life, we tend to compare our successes and failures to those of the people around us, which can be both aggrandizing and deprecating, but wrongfully so, in my opinion. We are conditioned by our competitive society to believe that certain things definitively equate to success and failure, but this is not the case. Inevitably, you will make mistakes, but you must know that you can set right your accounts. To me, to be successful is to be happy on your own terms. They say if you have the choice between a healthy body or a healthy mind, choose one and you have a good chance at the other. Find something you love that’s good for you, do a whole lot of it, and I think you’ll do just fine in this life, kiddo—but make sure you do it for the sake of your own approval, not for the approval of others! What you’ve taught me—without even speaking a single word, Charlotte, and this is what amazes me—is that the best way to live life is to live for as long as you can, as happily as you can, and as best as you can, for both yourself and for those people whom you care about, and you’re one of those people for whom I live; you add so much meaning to my life. I wish I could be more specific, my dear, but the key to your own happiness and success is something that you will have to discover and define for yourself as you grow up—again, on your own terms!

My heart is heavy now upon leaving you but that is because you have made it full. When I first held you, I felt the weight of your body, light as a feather, in my arms. You fell asleep while I was holding you, and as I was trying to count your eyelashes, I lost count because I was distracted by your tranquil expression; I couldn’t help but admire how calm you looked in a world of widespread turmoil and strife. You’re truly an inspiration, little buddy, I hope you know that! I’ve never felt as at peace as I did when I was holding your sleeping body against mine. I became lost in your face, and I began to wonder what you were dreaming about and who you’d become, but know that no matter who you are or who you become, you will forever have the undying love and unwavering support of your

Uncle Joe

XOXOSONY DSC


-J.S.T.


Just for Kicks: My Favorite Pairs of Air Jordans Ever

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ELBOWS, MJ! ELBOWS!


In honor of Jordan Brand’s highly anticipated retro of the “Legend Blue” 11’s today, which Michael Jordan first wore at the ’96 All-Star game, I’d like to take this time to share with you my favorite Jordans ever from the 1’s to the 14’s (because they are his most sought-after and collectible shoes, and I also find most of the Jordans they released after the 14’s to be ugly). Basketball and sneaker culture go hand-in-hand, and as an avid basketball fan, I really like both. Here are my favorite Jordans ever. Enjoy these pictures, go watch and/or play some basketball, and maybe treat yourself and buy yourself a pair—if you can afford these exclusive and hard-to-find releases!

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My Favorite Air Jordan 1: “Chicago” 1’s

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This is the shoe that started it all, folks! If you’re looking for historical significance in a sneaker, here it is. I love the red and white leather on the toe box—a very sleek shoe!

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Jordan, about to hit the jumper in his eye and do him like that.

My Favorite Air Jordan 2: “Infrared” 2’s

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This is probably my least favorite Jordan shoe that I’ll feature in this post, along with the 14’s. That’s not to say, however, that it’s a flunk of a shoe! Jordan’s second signature sneaker still possesses a lot of value due to its style and quality!

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T-Ross yammin’ on Dante Exum in the “Infrared” 2’s.

My Favorite Air Jordan 3: “True Blue” 3’s

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My favorite Jordan ever. EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER.

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My Favorite Air Jordan 4: “Toro Bravo” 4’s

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Choosing my favorite pair of the 4’s was pretty tough. I do like many of the colorways, but dominantly red shoes are something that I’ve been really enjoying lately. Here is Tony Wroten in this colorway of the 4’s putting the moves on Carlos Boozer.

My Favorite Air Jordan 5: “Grape” 5’s

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A classic colorway, it really reflects the funky and colorful style of the 80’s and 90’s, Jordan’s heyday. Anyone else find it funny that Jordan’s wearing Hornets colors on this Wheaties box, the team that he now owns? At the time that this Wheaties box cover photo was taken, he was still playing for the Bulls. Also, given the resale value of retro Jordans and the number of Jordan fanatics in the world, I wouldn’t be surprised if this box was highly collectable either!

My Favorite Air Jordan 6: “Oreo” 6’s

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The Oreo 6 colorway is one of a few popular shoes that have been fashioned into football cleats by Jordan Brand. Can someone bring me an Oreo McFlurry, please?

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My Favorite Air Jordan 7: “Bordeaux” 7’s

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One of my favorite Tinker Hatfield designs! Tinker was inspired to make this design by a poster that he bought in Portland in the 90’s. I love the contrast of a simple base color with vibrant colors on the tongue and bottoms.

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Classic MJ move right here.

My Favorite Air Jordan 8: “Playoff” 8’s

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Yeah, Jordan wore them during the playoffs, so they called them the Playoff 8’s—pretty self-explanatory. There is a very “pop-arty” feel to this shoe; I almost feel as if the designs on the shoe were once a part of some larger painting and they cut and pasted the living daylights out of it and stuck it on the shoe, much to the benefit of the shoe’s aesthetic!

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Two of the all-time greats, Charles Barkley and Jordan, who were once each other’s worst enemies!

My Favorite Air Jordan 9: “Baron” 9’s

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I saw someone wearing these on the street today—too nice!

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Sneaker game aficionado, recent Jordan Brand signee, and the player who helped me fall in love with the game of basketball, Monta Ellis, sporting the Baron 9’s!

My Favorite Air Jordan 10’s: “Chicago” 10’s

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The bottom of this Jordan feature’s His Airness’s accomplishments and accolades at the time, a very cool concept executed well in a classic Chicago Bulls colorway!

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By the way, there’s no way you could ever fit all of Jordan’s accomplishments on a pair of shoes, unless maybe they were the size of Shaq’s shoes (US Men’s 22, in case you were wondering).

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My Favorite Air Jordan 11: “Space Jam” 11’s

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Guess where this sneaker got its name? You probably guessed right: Space Jam [1996]. This would be a good time for me to mention that some people are so faithfully attached to that movie, perhaps for nostalgic reasons, which I get, but I never thought it was that good—definitely an enjoyable film, though. This is one of the most sought-after Jordans that exists. That sheen on the patent leather makes the shoe!

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Monta always looked the best in a Warriors uniform!

My Favorite Air Jordan 12: “Taxi” 12’s

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I had no clue why they called these the “Taxi” 12’s until I looked at the bottoms! I love simple colorways; this is one of Jordan’s best.

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My Favorite Air Jordan 13: “He Got Game” 13’s

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As worn by Denzel Washington in basketball lunatic Spike Lee’s He Got Game [1998], this shoe is a classic! You can thank Denzel for its popularity.

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Ray Allen is also in the movie. He plays Denzel’s son, basketball phenom Jesus Shuttlesworth.

My Favorite Air Jordan 14: “Black Toe” 14’s

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Another one of my least favorite Jordans, but like the 2’s, also not a bad shoe! This shoe was just retro-ed a couple of months ago, as well as the Ferrari 14’s, Thunder 14’s, and Sport Blue 14’s, which are worth a look.

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There are people in the world who can’t even afford a single pair of shoes; many of us are very fortunate. So, no reason to be so envious of Jordans to the point where you fight or even kill people over them (yes, it does happen). So, be thankful, and regardless of what brand of shoes you decide to buy or how much they cost, as long as you like them, rock them! Shoes are a fashion accessory, but what all shoes are really supposed to do is protect a person’s feet, and as long as they do that and fit comfortably, isn’t that what really matters? I mean, that’s why shoes were made in the first place, right?


-J.S.T.


Here goes nothing…

Reader/friend,

It’s about midnight, December 12, 2014, and I messed up! After weeks of procrastination and complacency with my performance in school, I’ve been up for over a day after cramming for my final exams, and I sit here in delirium writing my first blog post ever (yes, EVER) to you. Thank you for visiting my blog, and it is my hope that you will continue visiting my blog to check out all of the cool things that I plan on writing about in the near future!

To those who do not know me, my name is Joe Totterdell. I am a native of San Francisco, and I am fortunate enough to currently be studying English literature at the best engineering school in the country: Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. Go figure. I have a particular interest in literature, music, sports, film, and art, which you will most likely be reading about ad nauseam in this blog, and I turn to WordPress as an outlet for informal leisure writing—I love literary criticism and argumentative writing as much as the next English major, but let’s be real: it does get tiresome when it is most of what you do. I am a much bigger fan of the casual music, film, or literature review! Besides, in any essay for school, I would never be able to rave and rant about the things that I love and despise without employing elements of formal writing. WordPress, on the other hand, gives me the freedom to do this.

It is here that you will hear all that I have to share about the many things that interest me. However, more importantly, I hope that my writing inspires you to do some thinking of your own. As much as I’d like to shove my opinons down your throat, I am more interested in sharing my opinions with you in hopes that they help you form opinions of your own. Do you agree with what I am saying, or disagree? You have the right to do either, and I welcome any sort of discourse or criticism on this page.

Welcome to the page! I hope that, through my blog, you are able to discover and learn about new things, as well as develop an appreciation (or disdain) for them! Happy reading.

-J.S.T.