Many of you know that I'm a big fan of Hatsune Miku. Shortly after I returned from my mission, I discovered a song that had been written back in 2012 by my favorite group that uses the Vocaloid program. The group is called supercell (with a lower-case 's'), and they were made famous through using Miku's voice. The group leader, Ryo, leads the band and writes most of the music and lyrics. 

Since supercell's beginnings in 2007, they have used several live vocalists to sing their music. However, Ryo likes to surprise the community by releasing songs sung by Miku every once in a while. His latest song, Odds & Ends, has a very touching story. It is a self-portrait of Ryo's life as he has become big through his music using the Vocaloid program. This song is a tribute to the medium and singer that helped him shine. Please listen, and then I'd like to talk about it a little bit.

Odds & Ends
by Ryo
Lyrics translated to English

You've always been hated
Unlucky, you're made to do things
And at last, get caught in the rain
The wind blows away your favorite umbrella
Saying "good work"
The stray over there steps on your legs

As usual, you're hated
Pushed away without doing anything
Even though you tried
The reason is "vague" and
You're both confused and sad

So, you should use my voice
Some people say it's incomprehensible
And a dissonant
Bad-sounding voice
But I'm sure it will be of use to you
So please let me sing
With your own, your very own words

Spell them out and put them together
Because I will scream out those words
I won't let anyone touch
The ideals and feelings that you paint

And so the voice of a piece of trash echoes
Awkwardly connecting the truth
A loud voice raised to full volume

Eventually, you became popular
I'm also proud that you're recognized by so many people
But eventually, you changed
You became colder, but also seemed lonely

There are plenty of voices of opportunity
"I am myself." And so
You then uncontrollably
Began to hate me
Behind you, someone said
"Even though he's just pretending"
You must have been crying all alone

Can you hear? With this voice
I'll drown out all the insulting words
I understand, you really
Are kinder than anyone else

And so the voice of a piece of trash sang
For no one else, but for your sake
Overcoming the grating and squeaking limits

Together, surely we came up with
A lot of words
But now, we cannot come up with anything
But I understand everything
"I see, this is a dream.
A dream that I'll never wake up from, where I met you"

Wearing a happy expression, the piece of trash
Won't move anymore, no matter how much how many times it's called for
In the conclusion that should have been desired
You cry out. "It must be a lie. It must be a lie."
So you cry out

"I'm powerless.
Unable to save even a single piece of trash"
The emotions turn to tears
And run down those cheeks

At this time
The world immediately
Changes color
Happiness and sadness
I know that everything is
One and the same

In this world where words turn to songs
Once again, I begin to run for your sake
Putting intent into my voice
Now, feelings resound


I love this song. The instruments sound great, and Miku's voice sounds a lot more natural than she does in most of her songs. I love Ryo's use of piano and electric guitar.

What I love more about the song, though, is its story. Vocaloid was created to give song-writers a vocalist that could adapt to any singing situation. Or, I'd like to think in Ryo's case, he was such a small-time artist that he didn't have the means to get a decent vocalist behind his songs. He could make all the music using his own keyboard and some friends that could play instruments, but there was never a voice to it.

Then he discovered Miku. He discovered his voice.

Through Miku, Ryo became big. He became famous. His songs were all over the Internet. They made it into video games and concerts. People wanted more, and he gave them more. He moved on to hire a beautiful young voice named Yanagi Nagi (whose voice I also adore). She was also a no-name musician until supercell found her and made her their lead vocalist. Supercell now has a new lead singer, but I'm honestly not a fan of her.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that during his time with Nagi, Ryo got kinda big-headed. At least, that's what the song implies. He wrote this song to remind everyone – and himself – of where he had come from, and how he got there.

What I love most about this song is its message of how we never triumph alone. We could never have come this far by ourselves, and we needed the strength of others along the way. I'm not saying Ryo's ladder to fame was made possible solely because of a computer program, but he stuck to a medium and to people that he enjoyed and made a name for himself with them.

It makes me wonder whose "voice" I'm using, or will use, to come out of the dark...



Sunday school is one of my favorite parts of church. You go into class, learn from the Bible or the Book of Mormon and hear different life examples from the teacher or fellow students. Maybe even a game or visual representation is involved. There's also the chance that it's simply hearing the teacher speak or everyone reads out of the manual. These are not bad ways that a Sunday school class can be held (except for reading out of the manual, because it can be awfully boring). But today, during my own Sunday school class, I was amazed at how much my teacher lacked to begin class on any good note. I'm not sure if he was able to redeem himself later on because I walked out of the classroom before he even began teaching.

This is the second time I have seen this particular Sunday school teacher begin a class like this. He walks in and calms the class down. He says, "I haven't been here for a while, so I don't know what lesson we're on. But apparently it's Chapter 15." Then he explains, "I'm not going to use the pulpit because I hate speaking, so today is going to be a lot of discussion. I want to hear from you guys." Then finally, to "set up" his "lesson", he asks us to "think of the most worldly possession you want in your life."

That was when I walked out.

Like I said before, this was the second time I heard this particular teacher start a class off this way. The last time it happened must have been a month and a half ago, and I've tried to avoid the teacher since. I didn't choose to go into his class this week. I entered a room with no teacher, and he walked in after. I didn't walk out of the class the first time he made this wonderful introduction, but I probably should have. I talked to my parents about it at home afterwards and they were just as appalled as I was.

This is in no way attacking this teacher's own beliefs or lifestyle. I'm not in any position to judge who he is outside of church, what his dreams are or any of that, because I honestly don't have any clue. I'm not contending against any doctrine or function of the church, either. All I want to point out is how wrong this sort of teaching process is and how it can be done better. I want so badly to ask the guy if he ever served a mission because there are such basic teaching principles that any missionary pick up.

"I haven't been here for a while, so I don't know what lesson we're on." It's ok to not come to church completely prepared for a lesson. You know how many times, as a missionary, I was asked to bear my testimony on the spot, or teach a Sunday school lesson to a dozen people without writing a single note? It happens. And at that point, you can only rely on the Spirit to help you, which it does. But you don't have to go announcing to the world that you are totally unprepared and that the next hour is going to be a bumpy ride of unorganized thoughts. If you appear to know what you're doing, your audience will think you know what you're doing. I'm not saying it's a game of "fake it 'til you make it". I know for myself that anyone that wants to teach the gospel in a spur-of-the-moment situation will be given divine power to do so.

Also, didn't Elder Holland say in a recent conference talk how we shouldn't begin our self-evaluations by pointing the bad things out first? He says "that's like stuffing a turkey through the beak". That blunt phrase (and humorous imagery) really hit me when I first heard it, and I've tried to keep a strong attitude in everything I strive to do, coupled with a meek heart that knows I have many things to improve.

"I'm not going to use the pulpit because I hate speaking, so today is going to be a lot of discussion." Discussion is not bad. The fact that he hates speaking is not bad, either. The church is infamous for calling people to challenging positions, and I'm certain that being a teacher is a challenge for this guy. But does everyone need to know that a) he is in an extremely uncomfortable position for himself and b) he just threw the entire teaching job onto our own backs, and he's expecting us to bear his burden? That phrase alone told me that he didn't care to be there, didn't care what was said, and just expected the Spirit to be found within someone's tear-jerking story at some point. Again, I look in the direction of Elder Holland's message, along with the famous line from Singin' in the Rain, "Dignity. Always dignity."

I'm pretty sure that he was getting a joke out there or something in an attempt to loosen up the class and break the ice, but quite the opposite effect happened. Other than the two infamous teaching sessions, I've sat in his classes a few other times before. There was absolutely no participation from his audience. He asked the class to recount the story of Moses, and I was the only person telling the story (for my personal memory, I want to mention his version of the story of Moses came from the Dreamworks film The Prince of Egypt, which is flawed in multiple ways from the Biblical account). Now, I have a habit it a classroom that I don't like to answer a teacher's question twice in a row so that others may participate and I won't like like a teacher's pet. After I'd answer his question, the next question would be followed by a really awkward silence amongst the ten people sitting there. Anyhow, I hope this illustrates just how uninvolved his teaching audience is even though he makes attempts to break the ice with his distrusting comments at the beginning of class.

"I want you to think of the most worldly possession you want in your life." I think I'm more amazed that he pulled this card in the introduction of another one of his lessons altogether. In fact, it was even worse the first time because it was precluded with reading a chapter out of the Old Testament. Some good, solid, God-driven miracles were happening in that chapter. Then his follow-up question to the chapter was, "what is your favorite movie?" Ok, so it's not the same question, per se, but you'll agree with me that it's basically saying, "now think of something really worldly."

The Spirit was gone in that instant. What is everyone thinking about in the classroom at that moment? Not the gospel. Not about why they're at church, or how they can become more Christlike. With some context, that question can be better, like, "What are some changes we can make in our lives? Are there any movies in our homes we should probably get rid of?" Bam. Implication of Christlike change. "There are some real distractions out in the world today. What are some of the worldly possessions you really desire? What would be something better to invest in or spend more time towards?" You see how a question next to the question can change its meaning so much? But no, this teacher will address the contrast of the two ideas in the middle or towards the end of the lesson, because it keeps you hooked, right? Wrong. It makes you think of worldly things the whole time you sit there as the teacher goes on to read more out of the manual.

*Dismounts soap box* Like I said in the beginning, I don't want to come off as attacking the church or this particular teacher. What I'm trying to address is the teaching method itself, because anyone can make these mistakes. I'm sure I've made them. So I'm not coming away from this thinking, "Man, bishop sure screwed up calling this idiot," because that's God's call. And I'm certain God has a purpose for this man in his calling. What I obtain from this is learning how to be a better teacher. To start off a teaching moment confident, regardless of how prepared you are. To establish that the teacher may guide the class, but everyone can learn from everyone in a respectful way. And last, to always stay on the spiritual side of things and teach to change. Changing is the most important part of this life, and we all have to help each other do it.

I really want to say something to this teacher. I want to help him see what he can do better, but I don't think I have the courage to (or the stature. This guy is one burly dude). I'm afraid, though, that if nothing is done, then nothing will change, and these lessons will become potentially hurtful to other people like they have been to me. That's mostly how I feel. I feel scared. Scared that things won't change.



A photo of my mother taken in the style of Yousuf Karsh (see previous post).



I fell in love with a man today.

A historian, artist, foreigner, romantic, and peacemaker are only a few of the wonderful traits that belong to Yousuf Karsh.

I've been asked to study about him in my photography course. I'd like to say, first of all, that my educational experience so far has never ceased to be a blessing to me because of the many doors professors place in my way that I eventually find to be just what I was looking for all along. I've seen the world through different eyes multiple times, each time so uniquely beautiful from other times past. I've read about Chinese families making new lives for themselves in The Joy Luck Club. I've been in the shoes of a young girl as her Mexican family adjusted to America in The House on Mango Street. Fahrenheit 451 projected to me the importance of cherishing the classical and human part of society and ourselves. I never would have found any of these stories without the guidance of the educational system.

Today, I discovered another man's story. Karsh is a famous photographer who immigrated to the Americas from Armenia at 17. He began as a landscape photographer but eventually moved on to photograph portraits of the most famous and talented names in history. His photos are still iconic.

Told ya so.
What impressed me most about this man was not his photographs, but the stories behind each photo itself. I'm not talking about a short little biography about who each person he photographed is, either. There always seemed to be a pleasant get-to-know-you before each photo session, coupled with creating an environment in which the subject would portray their true inner selves for the camera.

For example, in the instance of Albert Einstein, Karsh asked Einstein what would happen if another atomic bomb was released onto the world. Einstein replied by saying, "Alas, we will no longer be able to hear the music of Mozart." Now, repeat that phrase as you view the picture above of Einstein. Can't you see the wisdom and simplicity in his demeanor? The sad look in his eyes that he is responsible for the most deadly weapon on Earth, and yet contentment that the world around him is a beautiful divine creation worth exploring?

As Karsh photographed a woman named Marian Anderson (a famous singer), he felt as though he couldn't quite capture the image of her that he had envisioned. One of Marian's accompanists entered the room for a rehearsal, and Karsh had the idea of having him play Marian's favorite song. As the accompanist played, Marian hummed along, and captured this image.

Karsh wasn't just a photographer. He was a storyteller with the goal of capturing his subject in their most ideal state of mind, creating extremely personable and emotional works of art.

This guy is so cool~


we are gamers.

Each week, my friends Micah, Stephen, Vanessa and myself come together to play a game. The game played is different with each visit. It can be enjoyed on a TV as we all bundle up on the couch and scream at each other with each quick movement. The game can also be played on a game board littered with dice and character sheets as we sit Indian-style on the floor, breathlessly anticipating the outcome of what each die roll will be. Every game carves its own story and we, as the players, interact with the story in unique ways. Outside of the game’s format, however, we are only ordinary young adults; each with a story inside, waiting to erupt through a virtual medium of spontaneous and random circumstances.

Stephen, the planner, game master and all-around strategist.

Micah, the philosopher, story-teller and humorist. 

Vanessa, the down-to-earth player, the sympathizer and feminine opinion.

Matt, the tag-along, grunt worker and optimist.


2D and 3D

WB: Tungsten  f/4.5  ISO 1600  1/60s  40mm

WB: Daylight  f/4  ISO 400  1/3200s  32mm